New Delhi: The women team`s bronze-medal winning effort in the Junior World Cup couldn`t have come at a better time for Indian hockey as the feat has created a positive atmosphere in the country ahead of the senior men side`s crucial Asia Cup campaign in Ipoh, Malaysia.
For Indian hockey`s High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans, who is also the interim chief coach of the men`s team, any success is inspiring.
"Of course, everyone in the country feels very happy when our teams are performing. We are one big hockey family in the country. All the players of the senior team were following the girls bronze medal play-off match against England and when they won we all started dancing and jumping in celebration," Oltmans said here on Wednesday.
"Their feat is inspiring because I feel every success inspires to achieve another success," the Dutchman said during the felicitation of the junior women`s team, which won the country`s first-ever bronze medal in the Junior Women Hockey World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany.
The junior girls pipped England 3-2 on penalties in the third-fourth place play-off match.
Oltmans, who also looks after the women`s team, however feels the Indian girls still have a long way to go to match the top teams at the senior level.
"We are no doubt improving but there is still a huge gap to bridge to match the top teams at the senior level. Almost the same team played in the FIH World League Round 3 in Rotterdam where we faired poorly. It proves that there is a huge difference between junior and senior level.
"But the talent is there and the girls have proved that in the World Cup," he said.
The Indian men`s team now face a must-win situation in the Asia Cup to qualify for next year`s FIH Men`s World Cup in Hague, The Netherlands after having failed to secure a direct berth in the mega-event from the FIH World League Round 3 in Rotterdam.
Newly-appointed men`s team coach, M K Kaushik too agreed with Oltmans that the junior girls World Cup showing might act as a morale booster for their male counterparts in the Asia Cup to be held from August 24 to September 1.
"The atmosphere presently is very healthy. The girls` success should spurred up the men`s team in the Asia Cup. The Asia Cup is a challenge for us but the girls` feat will have a positive influence on us," said Kaushik.
With as many as four main strikers -- S V Sunil, Danish Mujtaba, Gurwinder Singh Chandi and Akashdeep Singh -- ruled out of the Asia Cup due to injuries, India find themselves in a spot of bother ahead of the all-important tournament.
But Kaushik is in no mood to give too much importance to the unavailability of the players and said they will have to perform with whatever they have at their arsenal.
"Injuries are part and parcel of every game. When you practice or play with intensity injuries are bound to happen. We will obviously miss some good players but it will also provide opportunity to youngsters," he said.
"Every tournament is tough because now-a-days all teams can analyse each others` game. But we are working together with one common goal in mind."
India captain Sardar Singh expressed similar feelings but said they will miss Sunil`s experience in the Asia Cup.
"Danish, Gurwinder, Akashdeep, Sunil all were very important players but we can`t do anything as injuries are part of the game. Oltmans told us that we need to take all these out of our mind because we just can`t depend on one player," he said. "But we will surely miss Sunil`s experience."
Sardar reiterated the need for a full-time psychologist for the team, and said Oltmans is presently filling up the position.
"There will be pressure (in Asia Cup). We need a regular psychologist with the team, not someone who comes and goes. Oltmans is interacting one-on-one with the players and trying to fill that void," he said.
Sardar lauded the junior girls bronze medal-winning performance and said they have made the country and the entire hockey fraternity proud.
"The girls have created history because they won a medal after a long time," he said.
Meanwhile, Hockey India today rewarded each member of the bronze medal-winning junior girls team with a cash prize of Rs one lakh each.
Apart from the players, India`s chief coach Neil Hawgood, also received a cash reward of Rs one lakh, while the other support staff were given Rs 50,000 each.
Striker Rani Rampal got an additional Rs one lakh from HI for emerging as the player-of-the-tournament in the World Cup.