Raipur :Three weeks into his new job, Indian men’s hockey team strategic coach Roger van Gent feels the Sardar Singh-led side needs as much as exposure as possible against top teams to prepare itself for next year’s Rio Olympics.
Van Gent says even though India has improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years, which is reflected in their surge in world rankings, there is still plenty of work to do in order to be a potent force in the Olympics.
“We still have a lot to do and that’s the reason we need to play this sort of hard matches. It will allow us to know our strengths and weaknesses. The more information you get by playing the best teams in the world the better it is for us. These matches show where you can improve and what you are doing right,” Van Gent told PTI on the sidelines of the ongoing Hockey World League (HWL) Finals here.
“We need to gather as much information as possible. Although nine months look like a long time but in reality it is short. I think this is the best way to start our preparation for Road to Rio.”
Van Gent is a popular figure in the Netherlands, where he coached teams like HC Den Bosch, Orange and Black HC Tilburg. And taking into account his experience, the Dutchman said the only way to iron out India’s inconsistent showing is to play more against the top five teams of the world.
“Yeah we are inconsistent and that’s a fact and that’s normal because we are not playing that much against top teams on a regular basis. You can only get consistent when you get to play a lot of matches against these teams,” he said.
“You can only get better and learn when you play top teams because they will show you where you have to improve.
They will show you whether you are getting better or not. We have shown that we can compete against the top teams but to that in every match you will have to play a lot of games against those opponents.”
The three-match Test series against Australia preceding the ongoing HWL, was van Gent’s first taste of competitive hockey with Sardar Singh & Co, and the rubber provided him a clear idea of the picture that lies ahead of him.