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Men’s Hockey Team Undergoes Shift In Philosophy, Emphasis On Defensive Structure For Asiad

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NEW DELHI, Sept 20: The Indian men’s hockey team is undergoing a philosophy shift, moving away from the traditional attacking style of play with new head coach Craig Fulton emphasising on having a sound defense.

Defence has always been the Indian team’s weakness. Playing with an attacking mindset the strikers and midfielders move forward, leaving the defence vulnerable.

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However since the time he took over the top job in April, Fulton has made it clear that chinks in defense are non-negotiable for him.

“It’s a little bit of philosophy change, we really want to improve our defence and counter-attack to win and that’s the philosophy,” Fulton told PTI in an exclusive interview.

“And also the mental side of the things, when the team and individuals are struggling, we are working on finding out ways to get the job done,” Fulton said.

The South African added that working on the mental side of things is also top priority for them as a a gold-medal finish would fetch them a direct berth at next year’s Paris Olympics.

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For this, World Cup-winning Indian cricket team’s former mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton will be engaging with the men’s hockey team during the business end of the Asian Games.

Upton, who was one of the key members of the Indian cricket team’s support staff en-route to the 2011 World Cup triumph, has already conducted three mental conditioning sessions at the National Camp in Bengaluru.

“Yes, it’s (the sessions with Upton) been very very helpful but it’s still early days. It’s about understanding how the team works and what makes the players tick from the mental perspective, to find out where we are as a team and where we want to go and what we need to work on. So that’s where Paddy has come on.”

“It’s just a process to get the outcome. It’s about when you start and where you want to be as a team. That was really engaging, there were lots of lessons learnt from the cricket team’s 2011 World Cup journey along the way.

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“And Paddy will be there with us at the Asian Games for the last week of the tournament,” he added.

Fulton, under whose guidance India won the Asian Champions Trophy in Chennai last month, is pretty clear about his present target — to become number one in Asia by winning the Asian Games gold and qualify for Paris Olympics.

“I have only been here for 4 months with the team where we had three really good competitions and things are going really well. At the end of the day we will now get tested in the Asian Games. And we just want to qualify (for Paris Olympics).

“India has a rich history of Asian Games and Asian Champions Trophy. When I first joined I wanted India to be the No.1 team is Asia. We have to know where we are, where we need to improve and ultimately we want to qualify directly for Paris through Asian Games, that’s the realistic and ultimate goal,” he said.

Fulton said there is no alternative to training to get better everyday and achieve success at the global stage.

“I think you have to break it down when it comes to every day thing, what you do in training, how you approach training. We try to put our best in training and the players want to win in training when no one is watching us.

“We try to really create a very competitive environment and at the same time you have to know where you are in order to improve areas that probably have let you down before,” he said.

“So whatever the cycle of the team is it has really done well in Tokyo, had a bit of disappointment in the World Cup but now we are on the up. We know we are really doing well and need to improve all the time,” Fulton added.

India will open their Asian Games campaign against Uzbekistan on Sunday. (PTI)

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