Penalty Corner: Conversion Error Costly
By Sumati Mehrishi | ENS | Published: 14th January 2014 02:27 AM |
India suffered disappointing defeats against New Zealand in their first two matches in the World Hockey League Finals. Coming after the team’s failure to qualify for the semifinals of the recent Junior Hockey World Cup, these defeats don’t augur well for a team which is trying hard to regain its glorious days in world hockey. Star drag-flicker VR Raghunath is feeling the heat. The following are excerpts from an interview.
How do you rate the team’s performance against New Zealand?
I am really disappointed. We did not use all the chances. It’s build-up time for the squad. We have new forwards coming to the team. We should be able to look at the grey areas during practice sessions and apply them in the matches.
The squad has two experienced drag-flickers. Penalty corner conversion is a grey area.
I won’t mind if we have 8-10 drag-flickers (laughs). But we must be able to get the penalty corners first. We have three drag-flickers now including Gurjinder Singh in the back-up. Conversion is a problem area. We need to be patient. The players should pull up their level of confidence in the coming matches. We have to create more short corners.
You have been encouraging the new forwards. Isn’t it too early to expect consistency from them?
The forwards need time to mature. It won’t happen in one day. They need more matches to respond to the demands of the game at the international level. We tell them to play without pressure. If we are leading by two goals or are down by two goals, we push them up. Because it’s our responsibility to help them perform better against top teams.
Has the team been able to absorb the new coaching strategies?
Our aim is to implement the coach’s strategies. The boys are trying their best to follow that. It’s our responsibility to minimise errors. This is a peak year. We should be mentally strong and maintain our fitness as we are getting ready to play 70-80 matches. We should improve our performance to do well in the World Cup.
It’s going to be a hectic year. You don’t have too much time.
The tournaments should be planned in a careful way. We are playing European teams after a long time in India. This is the best time to test ourselves before going to big tournaments. We are learning. We have to make sure we don’t repeat mistakes.
What is the squad doing to improve?
The quarterfinals will be crucial. Our penetration rate against New Zealand was higher than the previous one (against England). We got the same number of opportunities as our opponents. We have missed those chances. We have no reason to complain about the lack of opportunities. Coach Terry Walsh has got very little time to work with us. We are adjusting to his strategies. We need to perform better in the opponent’s D and put them under pressure and force penalty corners.