2023 Men's FIH Hockey World Cup | Coach Reid emphasises on need to reduce pressure on Harmanpreet Singh
Harmanpreet Singh is one of the main draws of the men's hockey World Cup, which begins on Friday. However, chief coach Graham Reid has worked on strategies to detract attention from his star player; he wants Amit Rohidas, Varun Kumar, and Nilam Sanjeep Xess to share the duty with their captain.
"I would be lying if I say that there isn't pressure on him (Harmanpreet). We have been spending a lot of time on our variations and making sure that we can deflect some of the pressure from Harman," Prior to their tournament opener against Spain in Rourkela on Friday, Reid told PTI in an interview.
"There are other drag flickers in the squad in the form of Amit, Varun, and Nilam and they have to share the burden." After 41 years, India, an eight-time gold medalist, earned a bronze medal in the Olympics in Tokyo, and there are great hopes for the home team to reach the World Cup podium for the first time since 1975 when they won their first gold medal there.
Additionally, the Australian coach who guided India to an Olympic medal in Tokyo is aware of the demands of contemporary hockey. "We focussed mainly on scenarios in our training, what if we are 0-1 down, what if we are playing with 10 men, what if they take their keeper off? Those types of scenarios are important that we have dealt with," Reid said.
"Spending a lot of time on those sorts of scenarios, lots of goal shooting, a lot of tackling, a lot of penalty corners. There is no rocket science there." When asked about his expectations for the World Cup, which will be held from January 13 to 29 in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela simultaneously, the Indian coach responded, "I always emphasise that we shouldn't be too much outcome focused. India as a nation always has an end in mind.
"It's an old adage that the first game is the most important, so we are just focussing on that and then taking it forward. That's how we are approaching it. My job as a coach is to keep them focused and the result will follow. It's an old sports psychology but it works.
"But having said that after winning medals in the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, it would be great for a hockey nation like India to win a World Cup medal," he added. However, the coach stated that at this point, he doesn't want to go too far ahead and is simply interested in the pool games.
India is put in a challenging Pool D with Spain, England, and Wales. On Friday, Spain will be the opponent for India's opening game.
"As far as the pool is concerned, we have got Spain first, we are now focussed on that game. And then we have England, and then Wales. All those three games are important for us to get a good start to the competition. After that, who knows what's going to happen," Reid said.
Reid stated that maintaining composure will be crucial for his team as crowded stadiums were anticipated for all India games in hockey-loving Rourkela and Bhubaneswar. "It's difficult to keep the noise out of your being, but what you can do is you can be aware of what's around you. We have been calling quite loud on the pitch, we will be trying to do that but if it fails you need to be just aware, look around, making sure what's around you," he said.
"The other thing is trying to stay focussed. These guys are used to playing in Bhubaneswar in front of big crowds." Reid said that the two-week-long specialized training led by goalkeeping coach Dennis Van De Pol and drag-flicker Bram Lomans, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, will be extremely beneficial to the Indians.
Van de Pol will be a member of the team management throughout the World Cup, according to Reid. "We had Dennis a couple of times and he is actually coming over for the World Cup. He will be part of the coaching setup during the tournament," he said.
"That's really good that he (Van der Pol) is going to be here. That's a real positive. A goalkeeping coach is really quite important these days in the scheme of things. He is someone who focused on the basics and made sure that their technique is solid.
"Bram is also good. Some of our younger guys didn't really know that Bram had won two gold medals in the Olympics. It was nice to have someone with that type of experience, and share his experience of how to deal with pressure in a World Cup," he added.