India is getting close to top sides, feels hockey coach Roelant Oltmans

Roelant Oltmans 26Bengaluru: Indian men's hockey team chief coach Roelant Oltmans on Thursday said foreign teams now consider India as a serious competitor and it is time for the P.R. Sreejesh-led side to show the world what they are capable of.

Oltmans' comments came after Germany and Kalinga Lancers skipper Moritz Fuerste's recent statement post the Hockey India League (HIL) that India can be top three in world hockey soon.

"I see it as a compliment that top sides in the world are seeing what India is doing," said Oltmans about Fuerste's remark.

"Maybe three-four years ago they weren't even looking at India as a serious competitor. India is getting close to the top sides and now it's up to us to show that we can do it," the Dutchman said at the senior men's national camp underway Sports Authority of India (SAI), Southern Centre here.

Having made a good start to the new Olympic cycle with men's Asian Champions Trophy and the prestigious Junior World Cup titles, Oltmans feels the process has been put in place to be the world's best.

India's next assignment is the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in April, followed by the World League Semi-Final in June, men's Asia Cup in September and the World League Final in December.

Oltmans' focus now is on building a formidable team for next year's World Cup.

"I think in the previous Olympic cycle from 2014, we have made a lot of progress. No doubt our focus is on 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2018 men's World Cup but we have to get the confidence by doing well in all tournaments," he said.

With 11 new recruits from the Junior World Cup-winning squad in the 33-member core probables list, it is evident that Oltmans is looking at bringing the potential of youngsters to the fore ahead of big ticket events.

"Every country goes through a transitional phase. I know that Holland already has 12 players from their junior squad though they finished seventh in the Junior World Cup. It is important to invest in the potential of these younger players to make sure they continue to develop," Oltmans said.

"These guys (junior players) know what is expected of them and the last four months of 2016, I have closely worked with these boys ahead of the Junior World Cup and they are aware of my working style.

"They are elite athletes and they are fully aware that I expect nothing less than 100 per cent on the pitch in every session," added the Dutchman, who will be at the helm till 2020 Olympics.

To achieve better results, Oltmans feels it is important for the players to share responsibilities.

"From what I've seen, there is a top down approach that exists in Indian way of functioning - be it in business, family or work. To do well in a team sport, every player needs to take responsibility and work towards executing his personal best into the team but not by playing as an individual but as a team player.

"I see this changing in our team and I believe this change in attitude will bring us success," he said.

Oltmans also stressed on the importance of relying on scientific approach towards training in this new Olympic cycle.

"We will rely a lot on scientific approach of training keeping in mind the new demands of international hockey. It is becoming such a fast sport where the players need to sprint and sprint almost throughout the game maintaining optimal energy levels. So we need to make sure our training and testing program is based on that and how they cope with that pressure," Oltmans said.

"Moving forward, I also feel there is room for improvement in terms of tactical and technical execution. We will also need to improve on converting our penalty corners."

Oltmans agenda for the team will be ably-supported by a highly qualified support staff, which includes analytical coach Hans Streeder, scientific advisor Scott Conway as well as former India stars Arjun Halappa and dragflick expert Jugraj Singh.