March 29th, 2016, Bengaluru: With their eyes firmly focused on 2016 Olympics, men’s team Chief Coach Roelant Oltmans feels the upcoming Sultan Azlan Shah tournament will be an ideal preparation leading to Rio. The team, currently practising at the SAI Centre in Bengaluru, will face New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan, Japan, Canada and hosts Malaysia taking part in the 25th edition starting April 6th, 2016.
With a good mix of youth and experience the Dutchman feels the squad has what it takes to go all the way. Oltmans has been laying emphasis on having specialists in the team and the implementation of the same has paid rich dividends in the previous season. “We have specialists in each department now and that is helping the boys understand their role better, Hockey India League has definitely helped us tap some good talent but now it’s all about showcasing their mettle in the International stages,” said Oltmans in an interaction with media at the SAI Centre in Bengaluru.
India has had a good run in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup winning the annual event five times in 1985, 91, 95, 2009 and 2010, earning bronze on six occasions and finishing runners-up once in 2008. “We don’t want to put extra pressure on ourselves right now, we just want to focus on one game at a time and then take it forward from there,” Oltmans said.
The team has undergone intense training sessions and Oltmans feels they are in good shape leading to the event in Malaysia. “Sultan Azlan Shah Cup will be a testing ground for all the youngsters of the squad to prove that they are ready for the big stage in Rio this year,” said Oltmans of the young brigade in the team.
The tournament is played in a round-robin format and that will ensure team plays against all the participating countries giving them a good competition exposure. The weather conditions in Ipoh, Malaysia at this time of the year will be hot and humid. The conditions will be a great test of fitness levels of the team that has improved vastly in the past couple of years.
With 2016 being the Olympics year, tournaments leading to the Games will act as a perfect platform for the squad to blend together and work on their strengths. Oltmans feels it will also allow him to test his bench strength and find the best possible combinations on ground before the quadrennial showpiece begins in August.