As always, the Indian team’s Asia Cup win is being eulogised everywhere and has been heralded as a new era under Dutch coach Sjoerd Marijne, who replaced Roelant Oltmans under acrimonious circumstances in September. Marijne is definitely not a fool to just lie back and hope for stronger ties with Indian hockey on this win alone. If he is a practical man, he must have by now realised how fragile the ties with Hockey India are, especially for a foreign coach. India has won the title after a decade, so it will attract effusive praise. But we should not go overboard.
With the standard of hockey declining in the rest of the continent, India’s win was very much expected. It would have been a huge embarrassment if the World No. 6 had not won the title. That India is the only team from Asia to be in the top 10 shows how others are faring. In isolation, the win will do little to enhance Marijne’s credentials. This win is just an appetiser.
The World League Final in December will test Marijne’s tactical mantle. Another issue HI had with Oltmans was his inability to nurture young talent. This time three youngsters from the Junior World Cup team—Dipsan Tirkey, Harmanpreet Singh and Gurjant Singh—stood out. The core of the team has been established. Now the coach needs to reinforce the areas that are frail and vulnerable. Defence has been an issue. In Dhaka, it was not tested much but it did show some improvement.
However, against faster counter-attacking teams of Europe, this will be tested. How Marijne sets up his team to tackle the might of Australia, Germany and the rest will also be watched with interest. Oltmans was handed the pink slip because of the team’s inability to do well against the ‘superpowers’. If his compatriot also returns middling results against the crème de la crème, this win will be forgotten quickly. However, if he can use the title as a building block for the next 12 months—culminating with the World Cup next December—India may have turned a corner.