India need to play top teams consistently, says Nobbs

New Delhi: Erstwhile champions India need to play top-ranked teams on a consistent basis if they wish to return among the crème de la crème of world hockey, feels chief coach Michael Nobbs.

Nobbs said that the upcoming four-nation test event for the London Olympics, will provide the eight-time champions India a first hand knowledge about their present status.

India will lock horns against hosts Great Britain, world champion and Beijing Olympics bronze medallist Australia and reigning Olympic champions Germany in the test event, to be held in London from May 2 to 6.

"In the test event we are playing three of the four top teams in the world and it should serve as good preparation for the Olympics. But we need to play top teams consistently if we want to improve our world ranking," Nobbs said before leaving for London this afternoon.

With a fit squad at his disposal, the Australian is hoping to create a few upsets in the tournament. But he is also realistic about India`s chances in the event.

"After the Olympic qualifiers, we had a three weeks training programme where we worked on our speed and strength. The good thing is that there are no injury concerns in the team," said Nobbs, who guided India to this year`s London Olympics after missing out on the 2008 Beijing edition.

"I am looking at the test event as another step for us to improve. It will provide us with an opportunity to test our skills.”

"We will try and look to win a few games, and if possible, the tournament. But at this point of time, probably we are not good enough to beat these teams on a consistent basis," admitted Nobbs, who has infused fresh life into the Indian hockey set-up with his straight-forward approach.

Unlike normal green astroturfs and white balls, hockey in this year`s London Olympics will be played in blue and pink pitches with yellow balls at the Hockey Centre in the Riverbank Arena, the main venue for the event.

Nobbs said India would be playing on such a surface for the first time in the test event, unlike some other Olympic participating teams.

"Other teams have been playing quite frequently on blue pitches, but we will be playing on the blue pitch for the first time. I have been told that the blue pitch at Hockey Centre has some different characteristics. So, it will be a good experience for us," he said.

Asked about promising striker Yuvraj Walmiki`s injury, Nobbs said, "He (Walmiki) has just started training, but we will not race him. His injury is such that if it is not taken care of properly it can damage his career."

Yuvraj suffered a hamstring injury during the Olympic qualifiers in New Delhi earlier this year, which also forced him to sit out of the London-bound team for the test event.