Roelant Oltmans did a fabulous job as stand-in coach of the Indian team at the Champions Trophy as the national team reached the semifinals of the premier event for the second consecutive time. Oltmans, now serving as Uttar Pradesh Wizards coach talks on a range of issues in an exclusive interview.
Q. How do you assess the 2015 Hero Hockey India League?
I think teams in this edition have got more competitive and we are consistently witnessing down-to-the-wire contests. We had seen quite a few drawn games so early in the tournament, which just goes to show that all teams are strong and equally determined to do well.
Q. How much has HIL benefited the Indian youngsters?
There is no doubt that the league has worked wonders for the Indian youngsters. These young lads need the right exposure to grow their game and HIL is the platform where they could not just improve their game, but also make a mark and leave an impression on the national hockey selectors.
Q. You were appointed Hockey India’s High Performance Manager in early 2013 and you ended up serving as the men’s team coach twice on a stop-gap basis – on both occasions the team had performed really well under you.
I agree that both the 2013 Asia Cup at Ipoh and the 2014 Champions Trophy at Bhubaneshwar the team performed well, but my primary job is that of a High Performance Manager and if when I need to chip in I will, but largely I will be sticking to the high performance programme.
Q. The Indian team had a fantastic 2014 winning the Asiad gold, silver at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games besides a semifinal finish at the Champions Trophy. Realistically what can we expect from this team at the 2016 Rio Olympics?
The Rio Olympics is a big focus area and our goal will be to make a top-six finish. All teams are competitive and we have to be at our best to beat all these teams. We have to understand that every team is beatable and we need to play our best hockey to beat every team.
Q. India defeated all the big teams last year – Australia, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium. Is the team now fully prepared to beat all the world’s top sides?
Indian team have shown that they have the ammunition to beat the world’s top teams, but the key thing is whether they can beat them consistently. Modern hockey is unpredictable and anything is possible on a hockey turf. So many times we have seen how teams have made a mockery of the rankings.
Q. Were you surprised that India continued to languish at number nine in the FIH world rankings despite their impressive run in 2014?
To be honest, I was surprised to see that but then you have to keep playing consistent hockey and sooner than later we will be up in the world rankings.
Q. Australia has been one of the consistent teams in the world but seems to have fallen off after winning the World Cup?
The Kookaburras haven’t look dominating after winning the World Cup – also other teams are also working hard. Talking of consistency, let me tell you something recently Belgium beat Netherlands 4-0 and in the next game the Netherlands won 6-1. If we talk of consistency, modern hockey is such that it a huge challenge to stay consistent and Australia have been doing quite well at least until the 2014 World Cup.
Q. What will be Indian men’s hockey team’s international programme for 2015?
The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is coming up in April, followed by a Four Nation Tourney in New Zealand, Hockey World League semifinals in Belgium. Then we have the India-Australia Test series in India among others.
Q. How much keen are the world’s top teams to play India considering the latter’s recent impressive performances?
Well, every top side is keen to play India. Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and all other teams are keen to play India as they see it an opportunity to raise their performance bar. We are talking with the hockey federations of these countries and let’s see if we can have tourneys or Test series this year.