With the Asia Cup hockey title under his belt, India’s chief coach Sjoerd Marijne feels consistency is something which his men need to work on to bridge the gap with the top teams, reported PTI.

“I am really happy because it was my first tournament as India men’s team coach,” he said. “We really played good hockey. I really feel happy for the players and the Indian hockey fans for the good start.”

India’s lack of consistency was evident in the Asia Cup final against Malaysia, felt Marijne, when Manpreet Singh’s men failed to kill off their opponents despite holding a two-goal advantage. Malaysia pulled one back late into the fourth quarter but India managed to hold on to a win.

“We should have scored more goals in the final but our levels dropped too low in the final quarter and it allowed Malaysia to make a comeback,” Marijne said. “We really played very good attacking hockey and scored some beautiful field goals, but we were not consistent.”

India dished out beautiful one-touch, attacking hockey, a style reminiscent of their glorious past and it resulted in 21 fantastic field goals in the tournament. Marijne, who took over the team just last month after the sudden ouster of Roelant Oltmans, feels that Indian can be a lethal force against any opposition if they can carry on playing with such passion.

“I am a big fan of give-and-go hockey because as you saw in the Asia Cup, it created plenty of scoring options for us,” he said. “This style of hockey is really difficult to defend especially with the amount of speed one can generate.”

Manpreet effect

Marijne had always advocated the idea of the players choosing their style of play on the turf. And the Dutchman feels the Asia Cup win just showed how the Indian team, led by Manpreet Singh, has taken the onus on themselves to work towards that aspect.

“I am happy with the way the team has responded in this tournament,” he said. “The players did a lot of hard work, analysing every single opponent and I did all the pre-match preparations. After that we discussed what style of play we need to play.”

He praised Manpreet’s “exceptional” leadership skills as well. “In the last seven minutes in the final quarter [in the summit clash], he took the responsibility on himself to keep defence together in marking the Malaysians. That’s exactly what I wanted from the players.”

The coach admitted that as the top-ranked team in the tournament, returning without the title would have been disastrous. “We went match by match. We knew we were the highest ranked team and there was pressure and expectations on us to win the title.” .

Asked whether the current Indian team has the potential to match sides like Netherlands, Germany and Australia, Marijne gave a diplomatic answer.

“I wish I can give that answer. I have now experienced the competition in Asia but I need to have that experience against the top teams. The Hockey World League Final will be an interesting tournament, where I will get an idea of where we stand.”

The coach, however, refused to pinpoint any particular player, who impressed him but lauded the efforts of the two young goalkeepers – Suraj Karkare and Akash Chikte.

“Hockey is a team game so for me it is the team which matters. But the two young goalkeepers were very good. In all the matches, two goalkeepers played in each half and conceded only four goals,” Marijne said.

Veteran Sardar Singh, who played in a new role in the Asia Cup as a floating defender, had a mixed outing but Marijne seemed in no mood to take a call on the former skipper’s career just now. “Sardar played a free defender, unlike his usual position in the midfield. He did well even though there were some errors. But it is too early to speak about his career now,” he said.

The Indian team will head for a break now and reassemble again on November 5 in Bangalore to kick-start their preparations for the HWL Final to be held in Bhubaneswar in December.