Hockey camp to focus on fitness, strength: Nobbs

Bangalore: While admitting that the Indian team`s deep defence is a source of concern, chief coach Michael Nobbs has asserted that with inputs from former India captain Dilip Tirkey, who is to be drafted as a member of the support staff, the glaring gaps that showed up in the recent Olympic qualifier in New Delhi would be plugged.

In a media interaction here Monday, Nobbs, the 1984 Australian Olympian, outlined the plans for Indian team`s preparations for the London Olympics later this year and said the players would be put through the grind while the selection would be based purely on form.

In the lead up to the Olympics, the Indian team will be participating in a four-nation test event at the Olympic facility in London (May 2-6) along with Germany, Australia and hosts Great Britain.

Thereafter, the Indian squad would train in Spain from July 1 to 13 before participating in the four-nation event at Santander, Spain, and then heading off to London for the Games.

For the moment, Nobbs seemed satisfied that the Indian team`s defence was shaping up well with Tirkey playing a very influential role.

"Dilip has worked a lot in that area. Both Sandeep Singh and Raghunath (the two full-backs and drag-flick specialists) have improved their mobility. Also, Gurbaaj Singh is back from injury," said Nobbs, referring to the talented wing-half who missed the qualifier owing to injury.

Tirkey, 34, who retired two seasons ago after a 15-year international career that included three Olympics and 412 India caps, was an automatic choice for the World XI at his peak. He was considered one of the finest full-backs of his generation.

India qualified for the 2012 London Olympics after winning the qualifier tournament last month, scoring as many as 44 goals in six matches, including the final.

Nobbs, while stressing that the focus was on attacking hockey, the nine goals that India conceded was due to defensive errors, and that he was seized of the matter.

"The deep defence did not have much to do in most matches. So, whenever the ball came to them, the deep defenders, especially the goalkeeper, were eager to get into the game. In the process, they made mistakes leading to the goals," said Nobbs.

In the forthcoming camp, Nobbs and his support staff, would be working hard to strengthen the deep defence while the emphasis would also be on improving the fitness and strength of the players.

Nobbs pointed out that the tournament will be the first real test for the National team that has not played any of the big teams after finishing runners-up to Australia at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.

"I think, Great Britain, Australia and Germany would be the other teams at the test event. Those are big sharks we will be up against and yes, it will be a good test for the Indian team," said Nobbs who took charge of the National side barely eight months ago on a five-year contract.

While the camp for the senior team is slated to commence here March 16, some 48 juniors have already assembled in preparations for the four-nation tournament in Pakistan (April 9-13, subject to government clearance) and the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia (May 24-June 3). India would be fielding a developmental side in both these competitions, Nobbs revealed.


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