It’s not the first time that Hockey India High Performance Manager Roelant Oltmans has been entrusted with the responsibility of serving as the national hockey coach for the upcoming Champions Trophy. Only late last year, Australian Michael Nobbs had stepped down on health grounds, with Oltmans taking charge of the Indian team at the Asia Cup, which attached so much significance given the fact that the 2014 World Cup berth was up for grabs.
The Dutchman did his job to near-perfection in Ipoh as India qualified for the World Cup after finishing runners-up in that tourney. Now as uncertainty surrounds the return of Terry Walsh (likely to be handed a fresh contract), Hockey India has handed the coaching reins to Oltmans for the Champions Trophy given the fact that there is far too little time left to scour for a viable alternative. “I know I’m stepping in as a stop-gap coach for the second time. The boys did well in the Asia Cup and I hope we can come up with a decent effort in the Champions Trophy” Oltmans says in an exclusive interview.
The celebrated Dutch coach stops short of saying whether the Indian team will miss Terry Walsh in the Champions Trophy, but insists the team made rapid strides under him. “It’s a fact that the Indian team have really progressed since the World Cup. The performances in the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the four Test series in Australia are a testimony to that. No one can deny that, but the team must look forward and perform well in the Champions Trophy.”
There is talk that Walsh has written to the Sports Minister expressing his willingness to return as national coach. So what’s Oltmans’ take on that? “I’m not the right person to answer that, but I will like to be optimistic. Of course, he won’t be here for the Champions Trophy, but hopefully we will get a clearer picture in the coming weeks.”
The former Netherlands believes no team’s success or failure can be attributed to only one individual. “It’s not the coach who can take the credit or criticism for a team’s win or defeat. The players, team manager, physio, as well as other support staff all play a role in the team’s performance.”
Oltmans developed a rapport with Walsh which he cherishes. “There is no doubt that we got along quite well and had mutual respect for each other. That way, I will miss him but at the moment I have a job to do – that is to help the boys perform well in the Champions Trophy.”
On the expectations from the Champions Trophy, Oltmans reckons the Champions Trophy will demand India to be at their best if they are to go the distance. “All top teams will be here, so it won’t be easy but having said that we have home ground advantage and will look to make the most of it.