CHENNAI: Graham Reid may have won his first tournament as coach of the men’s hockey team but his first major test is fast approaching. The Australian will lead his charges into the Olympic qualifiers in just over two months. With regards to that, the team has been working on a few variations inside the Sports Authority of India (SAI) campus in Bengaluru. While there hasn’t been a significant departure of style, Reid has quietly been working on different combinations in midfield.
“He hasn’t done any major changes to the team,” custodian PR Sreejesh told this daily. “He is allowing us to play the way we want to play. The plus point for him is that Chris (assistant coach Chris Ciriello) is here... he has been working with us since last year so he has been explaining to what we have been doing as a group.”
But Sreejesh, who did not travel to the Olympic test event in Tokyo, said they have been working on a few things with the intention of ‘surprising some teams’. “In the last camp, we did something different. It’s not something big or anything like that. But still, it could surprise a few teams. When prodded to explain further, he said it had to with lining up the players in the midfield.
“It’s not really complicated or anything but normally what we do is how we can line up the midfielders. In a couple of situations, we are trying to do something different with respect to that. I can’t explain it now but that camp, we tried to do things differently in this regard. So, that was the only big change.” The team management could be working on their midfield combination because, primarily, one of their weaknesses is that they lose their structural integrity when they are chasing the game.
Belgium, GB trips for teams
Even if the above-mentioned tactical tweak could have been deployed at the test event as well, one will witness India properly experimenting their new system in a series away at Belgium (September 23 - October 4).
The 31-year-old spoke about the importance of playing well against the world champions as it will be the last test ahead of the qualifiers. “It will be our last tournament to prepare. In Belgium, we need to learn to take that pressure and perform well on the field.” Playing against the Red Lions will also offer a glimpse into whether the Men in Blue have somewhat addressed the issue of losing against top-ranked sides on a consistent basis.
The women’s team, meanwhile, will undertake a similar trip to play Great Britain. The eight-day trip will see them play five Tests.