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Indian hockey falls short on the mental aspect of the game against top European sides and a permanent sports psychologist could be of great help in improving the team's performance, says Olympian goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza.
"We come short on the mental side of hockey and, as a result, we suffer from a lack of consistency in the team," D'Souza said.
He said top teams in international hockey have a larger coaching staff to back their players from outside the field and India can gain if it takes the same route.
"A travelling sports psychologist will definitely help. I know that Australia has one," the 23-year-old said.
"The Europeans score high on the planning and conceptual aspect of the game and we need to learn from them," the Mumbai-based goalkeeper said on the sidelines of a six-a-side invitational school hockey tournament in Delhi.
"Indians score one goal and tend to go easy for sometime after that. They need to maintain the pace and tempo of the game throughout the match," he added.
The custodian, who played for Maratha Warriors in the Premier Hockey League, had been away from the game for a while due to educational commitments.
"I appeared in my BA (Sociology) exams from Rizvi College in Mumbai and now am back in the game. I have been told to be ready for the next national camp ahead of the Champions Challenge tournament," he said.
The team for the Azlan Shah tournament, starting at Ipoh, Malaysia, on Saturday is short on experience due to the absence of veterans such as Dilip Tirkey and Gagan Ajit Singh, who are playing in the Dutch league and did not make it to the camp that was held before the team was selected.
"I also had offers from Spanish and German clubs but for me playing for the country always comes first," D'Souza said.
He conceded that international exposure while playing in the top European leagues can only help the development of the players, but said it could be useful only if the players go there in the off-season and the individual is available to play for the country.
"The IHF has also realised this fact and now encourages players to go abroad. But they (Tirkey and Gagan Ajit) chose not to report for the camp," D'Souza said.
India's last international assignment was the Asian Games and the goalkeeper attributed the debacle to missed chances, especially in the crucial defeat to China.
"We created so many chances but could not score," he rued.
He admitted that the recent improvement in the standards of China and Japan had made them more competitive.
"They are very fast and agile. I won't say they are a threat to the subcontinental style of hockey played by India and Pakistan. We have to be confident and play our own game."
D'Souza lamented the injury to drag-flicker Sandeep Singh but said his replacement V R Raghunath was an able replacement.
"Sandeep was at a stage at the time of his injury that I, as a goalkeeper, knew by instinct that he will convert a penalty-corner.
"Raghunath has got better with exposure. He has also improved in defence," he said.
Talking about the squad for the Azlan Shah tournament, he said it has many young players and one should not expect too much from the team.
"India should aim for the semi-finals to begin with," D'Souza said.
Regarding Bharat Chetri, with whom he had a constant battle for the goalkeeper's spot, D'Souza had only complimentary remarks.
"I have a very healthy competition with him. When I made it to the Indian team, Chetri and Devesh Chauhan were the senior custodians and I learnt a lot from them.
"I admire Chetri for his acrobatic saves and agility. They have also helped me with advice whenever I needed it," he added.
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