HWL: India leave Bhubaneswar with a lot to be desired for

Despite a bronze, Marjine's men have a long way to go

HWL: India leave Bhubaneswar with a lot to be desired for

The World League Final was new coach Sjoerd Marjine's first major test and the new-look Indian side's as well. While a bronze medal in a tournament featuring the eight premier teams may sound like a success, there's still plenty of work to be done if India wish to stand on the podium when this city hosts the FIH World Cup next year.

The tournament saw India in their true avatar - brilliant one day and ordinary another. Even during matches, they swung from being exceptional to mediocrity that eventually saw them beat just one team - a totally depleted Germany - in regulation time. They could muster just one point in the group phase, the rousing performance against Australia being the only saving grace.

They were abysmal against England and Germany, midfielders and strikers lacking much creativity at the start when the marking was water-tight. They showed promise after the second half but by then the damage had already been done.

They put those setbacks aside and dished out one of their best performances in recent times to pip Olympic silver medallists Belgium in a nerve-shredding quarterfinal but were unable to counter adverse weather and a stubborn Argentina, the Olympic champions, in the semifinal. Even during the bronze medal match against Germany, who were to able to field just 11 players after the remaining were declared hors de combat, India looked scratchy for most parts but eventually secured another nervy 2-1 win.

Marjine, delighted after winning a second successive medal after taking charge in September, conceded that the inconsistency is a big worry and his goal is to rectify that ahead of a major year ahead. "The first thing I spoke about before coming for this tournament and the most important thing is consistency. That's the thing we need to work on. We played at the highest level. Now I know what happens with them mentally. Now I have an idea what steps needs to be taken and what we need to change to achieve consistency. We will take our time for that. We have to learn our lessons. The easier thing is to see what we didn't do good. I know that. But if you create chances, it means you did something good."

Marjine felt he's developed a good camaraderie with the players and that has helped him fit into the new role easily. "I am just the director behind the scenes. I like winning medals. It seems the connection is good between us. It comes both ways. You cannot be laid back as a coach and the players need to be receptive. We have to raise the bar every time. If we are too happy with this, it's not what the team wants. It's nice and good start to my journey."

A major worry for India in this tournament was the penalty corners where they misfired terribly. Rupinder Pal Singh, returning from injury, and youngster Harmanpreet Singh just didn't find their range as India were able to convert just five out of 23 attempts. Marjine, accepting it was indeed massive cause for concern, chose to dwell on the positives instead.

"For me it's always about the team, not the individuals. We want to score 100 goals. There are seven young guys who played the tournament at the highest level against top countries. The guys train so hard to improve PCs. I hope you are proud that they won the bronze medal. I am proud. We can see now that we can play against every country. Players really believe they can beat every country. That's a big step."

While it's indeed a step forward, Marjine and his wards know the amount of miles that need to be covered further to narrow the distance between them and the top guns.

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