Soon after the Asian Games hockey draw was announced on Wednesday, clubbing India with arch-rivals Pakistan in Group B, there were concerns if the ghosts of Guangzhou 2010 where India defeated Pakistan in the group stage before losing their semifinal encounter to Malaysia could have any negative impact on the mind of players?
But chief coach Terry Walsh doesn't feel there is any need to tackle this issue. He maintains that his boys don't need the services of a psychologist in the run-up to the Games. "I don't think that this team needs any such thing at this point. I believe that to work on the mental part of the game, one doesn't need any psychologist at this level. I can only tell you that this team has been playing better than in 2010 and is ready to take on the best in the world," was his reply to dna's query.
When reminded that it's been 16 years since the Indian men's hockey team won a gold at the Asian Games, the Australian legend said that this Sardar Singh-led side has a realistic chance of breaking the jinx in Incheon, South Korea.
"The pressure would be more on Pakistan than us. We are certainly playing much better hockey now. India, to me, are one of the teams with a medal prospect in the Asian Games and I can say that on the basis of how we played in the World Cup and then in the Commonwealth Games," Walsh said on the sidelines of team's camp here at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium.
The Indian men's hockey team has won just two god medals at the Asian Games (1966 and 1998). And if India could break this jinx in Incheon, that would also mean an automatic ticket to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
"We need to guard against complacency. Our pool is not as easy as it looks. China are a good side and Pakistan, we know, can be dangerous on their day. We will have to work hard and can't take our place for granted from this pool," said Walsh.
However, Walsh is satisfied with the fact that his boys have done well in the recent past. "We lost to Australia in Glasgow but that's been the case with any other team in the world. Australia, we have to understand, is a very superior team. But we were able to put up a much better show against them than in the past. We are improving and there is no doubt about it. We are getting to a better place where we can justifiably play and expect results against teams outside the top four in the world and that's a very good place for us to be," he added.
The Asian Games will see the tournament being played in four quarters. A two-minute break after each quarter of 15 minutes will come into effect and this could force some tactical changes to be made accordingly.
"The break in each quarter will allow players to refresh and the team is working on this new format and formulating its strategies accordingly. But I don't think that there could be any need to change our tactics drastically," Walsh explained. Rather, he hoped that his team would learn from its mistakes. "We've to get better at creating corners and converting our chances. More importantly, we need to work hard in such a way that we don't give away careless penalty-corners to our opponents," he added.
Draw for Asian Games