Ipoh: After Indian hockey team cut a sorry figure in the Azlan Shah hockey tournament, coach Harendra Singh admitted that the players will have to improve a lot, especially on the fitness front, before the Olympic qualifiers next year.
"There remain several areas of concern, and these need to be worked upon. I am happy with some aspects like rotation and transfer of ball, but the players` fitness is a major cause of concern. That needs a lot of work and a competitive schedule to ensure peak match fitness," Harendra said.
"Also, we are repeating the same mistakes in one match after another. When you keep making the same two or three mistakes, obviously that needs introspection.
"It`s all in the mind and it is for the players to realise what`s happening. It needs individual attention to asses why this is happening after they have been told about it time and again," he said.
The defending champions` campaign in the Azlan Shah ended on a disappointing note as they finished sixth after going down 1-2 to South Korea in their classification match on Sunday.
Harendra said the fatigue was evident among the players after playing six league matches in eight days.
"That`s too much. The fatigue was not just physical, but a big part of it was mental. If the team is not fit, it shows in all departments. Look at the way the South Koreans played us today, they just banked on counter-attacks," the coach added.
Two penalty corner flicks by Nam Hyun-Woo left the Indian defence stunned, giving the Koreans a 2-0 lead at the interval. India tried to come back into the contest and reduced the lead on a second-half field goal from Vikram Pillay, but the disjointed line-up of strikers failed to capitalise on the chances India managed to create.
Harendra said there is an urgent need to prepare a competition schedule for the Indian team.
"Right now the Indian team`s only planned fixtures are the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy in September, and then a tour of Australia. At the end of the year, we have the Champions Trophy in New Delhi and then are looking at the
Olympic Qualifiers," he added.