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India working extra time on penalty-corners

Last updated on: July 24, 2012 18:57 IST

India working extra time on penalty-corners

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The Indian hockey team is working extra time in fine-tuning penalty-corner drills ahead of the London Olympics. Chief coach Michael Nobbs feels the fate of the competition rests on the team firing in more short corners.

"Forget the hockey, the Olympics competition here will be decided by penalty-corners," said Nobbs, aware that in Sandeep Singh he possesses a potent weapon in executing the set-piece drill.

- London Olympics - Complete Coverage

"The game here will be who gets in how many penalty-corners, and we obviously want to join the goal fest," the said.

Nobbs said the current Indian team's penalty-corner conversion rate is normally over 50 per cent, but he is keen to improve on that.

He said penalty-corner specialists Sandeep and V R Raghunath are both capable of putting the ball through the best of defences.

"Our general game plan is looking good. Raghunath's good form is allowing us to rotate him with Sandeep and make sure one of them is on the pitch at any given time," said Nobbs.


Image: Sandeep Singh
Photographs: Laxmi Negi/Rediff.com

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'The boys know their responsibility towards the team and the nation'

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He said this would enable Sandeep to get some time off the pitch and keep him energised for the entire duration of the tournament.

Sandeep's penalty-corner conversion rate in the Olympic qualifying competition in New Delhi saw India post a runway victory over France to secure passage to the London Olympics.

This marked India's return to the Olympics after missing out on the 2008 Games in Beijing.

India's absence from the Beijing Games was a big disappointment for followers of the game in which the dazzling stickwork of yesteryear fetched the country six successive Olympic gold medals from 1928 to 1956.

After losing in the final at the 1960 Games, India reclaimed the gold in 1964, but had to wait 16 years before winning it again in the boycott-hit Moscow Olympics of 1980.

Since then, India failed to make the Olympic hockey semi-finals.

India's ranking has slumped, but Nobbs says the current Indian team is capable of causing a few surprises in London.

"The boys are in high spirits and in good shape for the tournament. They know their responsibility towards the team and the nation," the coach said.


Image: VR Raghunath
Photographs: Laxmi Negi/Rediff.com

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'The penalty-corner scoring rate in Spain was dismal'

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Nobbs said he expects the team to give an impressive performance, which should spur Indian hockey.

In a rolling substitution scenario, the availability of different players to perform the roles becomes quite useful, the coach said, asserting that the effect of a penalty-corner shooter of Sandeep's calibre is enormous.

Nobbs said he was not unduly worried about the team's conversion rate in the just-concluded tour of Spain.

India could only score three goals from 33 penalty-corners in Spain, which could be the reason for the resultant extra focus on penalty- corners.

"The penalty-corner scoring rate in Spain was dismal, but then it was the case with all teams," said Nobbs.


Photographs: Laxmi Negi/Rediff.com
Tags: Nobbs , Spain , Sandeep , India

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The turf seemed to be less slippery: Nobbs

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"We were not the only ones affected, and it was caused by a series on things. The pitch was very slow and that effected the speed of the ball from the push-in.

"On the slow turn, the timing was different. Because of the slow nature of the turf, Sandeep was getting to the ball marginally slower and that upset the whole rhythm," he added.

Nobbs said the ball would travel faster on the pitch at the Riverbank Arena here, where hockey would be played during the Olympics.

The new blue turf at the Olympic venue was dubbed slippery and bouncy by all coaches then, but Nobbs said it seemed to be less slippery from what the Indian players experienced during practice over the weekend.


Image: Michael Nobbs
Photographs: Laxmi Negi/Rediff.com

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