India hockey team head coach Craig Fulton said following his team’s semifinal win over Japan in the Asian Champions Trophy that he is not someone who likes giving instructions to players from the sidelines, but prefers imparting lessons during training.
India thrashed Japan 5-0 in the last-four clash to set up a title showdown here with Malaysia on Saturday.
Following the huge win, Fulton said, ”I don’t do a lot of coaching from the sidelines, but during training. That’s where the ideas are installed. Maybe, there are a few things that have to change (during the match), but it’s up to the senior players to take a call.” India skipper Harmanpreet Singh, too, was all praise for Fulton for bringing in ”structural changes” to the side.
”Every coach has a different mentality. Our past coaches have been good. Even he (Fulton) is good. Every coach thinks about the betterment of the team,” said Harmanpreet after the match on Friday.
”He is doing a good job. While we have brought in structural changes in our team, managing it (changes) at such a short notice is a highly positive point for us. All credit to him.” Harmanpreet added that staying strong defensively and converting opportunities would be the key to success in the final.
”It’s a great achievement to make it to the final, which would be completely different compared to league matches. It was a good performance (on Friday), as we played according to our plans. We even created our opportunities as per the plans.” ”(On Saturday), our focus would be to stay strong defensively and convert most of our chances,” he added.
The win against Japan saw Mandeep Singh and Vivek Sagar Prasad work in tandem on several occasions and Fulton called them the ”engine room” of the side.
”It’s a nice mix. They have played a lot of hockey together. So, when they are in full flow, they play free, and they have the right focus that can open up our positions. They were all good today. They were the engine room, which was nice to see,” he said.
Goalkeeper is like a coach: Sreejesh
Veteran India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who earned his 300th international caps in the match against Japan, said, at times, he has to guide and instruct his players on the field as he has the best view of the rival team’s placement.
”I always believe that goalkeeper is more of a coach because I’m the only one standing behind and watching the entire game. When we are sitting in a team meeting, the instructions come and strategies play. But sometimes, the players find it hard in executing them. So, it’s my responsibility to guide them,” said the 35-year-old stalwart. Before the semifinal on Friday, Sreejesh was felicitated by Hockey India. He credited the team for helping him achieve the 300-match landmark in international hockey.
”What I am and where I am today is definitely because of the team. So, I wanted to thank them for supporting me or helping me when I need them. It’s all because of them.” Asked how he motivates the youngsters in the team, he said, ”I always keep telling the boys that if you have to achieve your dream, you have to go through sacrifices and need to bring in discipline. Stay focused on your goals and continue doing the hard work.
”When you are high, don’t get too excited. When you are low, don’t get too disheartened. Be neutral, and it will prolong your career. For goalkeepers, if they are young, they mostly sit out. They get to see more matches from the sidelines and learn a lot.
”Maybe, that’s the reason I have achieved my 300 caps now. Remember the dialogue, ‘Goalkeepers are like wine’. The more they age, the better they become,” he added.
Goalkeeping department in good hands
Sreejesh also asserted that the Indian goalkeeping department is in good hands, and that decent goalkeepers are on the way.
”Good goalkeepers are incoming. (Krishan) Pathak is getting really well. Pawan (Malik) is there with us. Suraj (Karkera) is also there. We have a good keepers’ pool at the junior level.
”Goalkeeping is a responsible job, and once you concede goals, you should know how to handle that pressure and situation and how to manage it. Experience is going to help you with that, while I also believe the goalkeeping is in good hands now.”