Athens: South Africa have been accounted for. It was necessary to win this match, and Indian hockey coach Gerhard Rach says now we will have to make the best of the Australian scenario on Thursday.
“They are a tough team, and their attackers are really difficult to control. But we have improved a lot from the time I took over and if silly mistakes aren’t made, we should be in a good position after the match.”
He has not liked the way some of his players argued with the umpire in the match versus South Africa. “Look, an umpire is like a player. He has his good days and bad days. He can make one mistake now which will make you unhappy, but next moment he might do something that will actually help you. This is not right.”
Quarrelling with the umpires seems to be the favourite pastime of the Indian hockey stars. Time is lost, and more importantly, with one key player out, the momentum is lost too.
“The problem with this team is that these kids are too nervous. They hold on to the ball for too long for no reason, and when they trap, they do it with no plan in mind at all. They start thinking only when they receive the ball. That’s too late. Against teams like Holland or Australia it will not do. There is no use complaining. The quicker you get used to the hugeness of the event, the better.”
Rach said that the Indian team is more composed today: “Take the fact that we have got seven short corners here, have scored four of out five goals from them. That is the game today, penalty corners. Now that we are good at converting penalty corners — you see we are converting 60 per cent — we need to force these from our rivals.
“The players have to understand that the penalty corner is the weapon of today, not field moves. They must force those corners. I believe we are the best in the business of penalty corner conversions today.”
Maybe one will wait a little more before endorsing that fully. He said that with the better coagulating defence line, he was waiting for the goalkeeper to perk up. “Devesh’s (Chauhan) dip was bad. He is coming back, and will in these Games, but Adrian D’Souza is developing into a first class ’keeper. I’ve noticed how fast he is, and with experience he will surely be the best in the world. This team needs more training, but the last four weeks wasn’t enough time. As I said, I need half a year.”
That does not include these Olympic Games, so Rach will have to make the best of what he has. “I hope the kids don’t get upset by the occasion Thursday. Full stadium, spectators cheering, and the pressure. There is no excuse about all that. It is like what Dilip Tirkey pointed out the other day. If there is a problem with the pitch, it is a problem for both the teams.”
He said when he came in he did not know India’s first XI. “The to frequent changes do not help.” Does he feel Dhanraj Pillay is fit enough at this level today' “Dhanraj has a magic in him. You need to wait for this magic to happen. Then you know you can’t lose. But you must know how to handle him.”
The small problem is that you mostly keep waiting for Dhanraj’s magic these days, till the match gets over. “So' Do you have a better player back home in that position'” asks Rach. No answer.
Last assertion is that a fit, improving Indian team, has to go all out for the win. “The last match is Australia-Germany. We play our last pool match (versus Argentina) at 8 pm, while Australia play Germany in their last match the same day half an hour later,” Rach said. “That leaves us with a disadvantage, doesn’t it' We must not let anybody else decide our fate. Then we are dead.”