This piece was published in Stick2hockey.com
Hockey India seems to be lining up elaborate preparations for the national team for the 2014 Rabobank Men’s World Cup to be held in The Hague, the Netherlands from May 31 to June 15.
The national hockey body has decided to send the national team on a nine-day trip to the Netherlands, where the boys will train at the World Cup venue from April 11-19. India is expected to play five or six practice games against some top sides besides a few games against club sides.“We will play the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany and probably one or two games against club sides. I believe the trip will allow the boys to know what to expect at the World Cup,” Hockey India’s High Performance Manager Roelant Oltmans elaborates post Hockey India League scenario said in an exclusive interview.
Oltmans, who served as Uttar Pradesh Wizards coach in the just-concluded 2nd Hero Hockey India League, said the Indian team will reach The Hague well ahead of the commencement of the marquee event. “We will leave on May 22, which will give us adequate time to acclimatize to the conditions before the World Cup begins on May 31. We are going to play a warm-up game against Ireland on May 25 and one more practice game on May 28 or 29 for which our opponent is yet to be confirmed. Reaching the World Cup venue early will stand us in good stead before we launch our campaign against Belgium on May 31,” he added.
The celebrated Dutch coach has revealed that most of the players who figured in the 2nd Hero Hockey India League are likely to give the upcoming Senior Nationals to be held in Lucknow a miss. “Look, these players have been constantly travelling, playing matches, sometimes back-to-back games for nearly a month. Player burnout is the last thing India needs. The Senior National ‘A’ division will start on March 10 a day before the World Cup camp begins. So players are better off by being fresh for the World Cup camp and since both the camp and the nationals are happening around the same time, there is no way the boys can participate in the nationals. It is prudent for these guys to take a well-deserved break after a strenuous run in the HIL and stay in good shape for the camp,” he explained.
The scheduling of the World Cup camp in the second week of March also meant that India had no option but to pull out of the 2014 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, which is slated to be held in Ipoh from March 13-23. “We had to focus on our World Cup preparations and it would have been unwise to have featured in the 2014 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup as the dates of this event are clashing with our World Cup camp,” he quipped.
The second phase of the World Cup camp will begin once the team returns from the Netherlands and will run till the team leaves for the Netherlands on May 22.
Oltmans, who as caretaker coach of the national team, shepherded the boys to a runner-up finish in the 9th Asia Cup where they lost narrowly to Korea in the final, in the process sealing a World Cup through the Oceania World Cup quota, refrained from talking about identifying new talents from the 2nd HIL. “I have seen some new talents from the 2nd HIL, but don’t wish to go into the details for now. We will see a lot of new faces during the Senior Nationals and hope to unearth talented guys from the ‘A’ and ‘B’ divisions,” he concluded on an optimistic note.
The venue for the 2014 World Cup camp is yet to be decided.