New Delhi: If Indian hockey team is to improve, it must be exposed to some tough competition against top teams of the world on regular basis, Hockey India's high performance director Roelant Oltmans has suggested.
India finished sixth in the eight-team FIH World League RD 3 after losing to Spain. The India team could win only one match against the lower-ranked France while played draws against Ireland and New Zealand apart from losing to Australia, The Netherlands and Spain.
"India was playing against the best teams in this tournament. It was never going to be easy. Australia is second in world ranking while the Netherlands is 4th. Spain (7th) is 4 places above India in ranking. India do not get chances to play against top teams regularly.
"There is not much competitions against teams like Australia, The Netherlands or Germany. We must play against these teams on regular basis to bridge the gap in performance," Oltmans told PTI Bhasha from Rotterdam.
"India played good hockey in some matches but they were not consistent. I won't say that their performance was bad but yes, there are some areas where improvement is needed and we will have to work harder," said the former Dutch coach.
Oltmans also warned that it will be tough for India to qualify for World Cup to be held next year. "The qualification system for the World Cup is really tough. Now India has to win Asia cup in August to secure a place in WC," he said. Oltmans backed defenders, who are facing criticism for their lacklustre performance in the tournament.
"Defending is a team effort. You cant blame four or five players for lapses in defense. It's a collective failure. Our defence was weak and we have to work hard on it," he added. When asked whether the draw in the opening match against Ireland hurt India's chances, he replied in a negative.
"I don't think so. It is true that we wanted to begin with a win but if we would have defeated Ireland in the opener, we had to face Australia in the quarter final. So you cant figure out just one match," he said. When asked about Indian women's teams performance, he said that team was lacking experience to play at this level.
"Women team was young and did not have experienced players like Rani, Jaspreet or Yogita. They were playing against teams like Germany, New Zealand which are number 5 and 3 in world ranking," he said. "It would have been unfair to expect win from the young Indian women team against top teams. They played well against teams like Chile and Belgium who are equal with them in terms of ranking," said Oltmans.