PANCHKULA: For India to become a “world force” in hockey again, the players need to focus more on aerial skills, a vital component of modern-day game, and avoid coming close to defenders in ‘rival D’, former national team High-Performance Director David John advised on Friday.
Eight-time Olympic gold medal-winners in men’s hockey, India have battled a heartbreaking slump in the last four decades but restored the pride to some extent by claiming a bronze at Tokyo Games.
While the men’s team won a medal after a 41-year long gap, the women’s team finishing fourth, its best-ever display, at the Olympics.
“Don’t try to dribble past your opponents. Modern hockey is all about 3D and aerial skills. Fortunately, these youngsters have all imbibed these skills,” John said on the sidelines of a Khelo India Youth Games match here.
“Our players are quick and adept at attacking but they lose the ball in the rival D as they run too close to the defenders. Worse, that allows the other side to counter-attack with devastating effect,” he added.
The Australian is optimistic of Indian hockey team doing well at the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games as the players will have played a good number of international games together.
“In the 2024 and 2028 Games, most in the squad will be our current junior World Cup players. They would have played close to 300 Internationals together by then and would be about 30 years each.
“These are exciting times for India but many squads – including Germany, Australia, Belgium and Holland – are also getting better.”
John, who had been with team India for several years before resigning, is back in the country as Odisha’s Director of Hockey.
“It is a challenging role. But if Odisha becomes strong, Indian hockey becomes strong, both in men and women.”
In pursuit of this goal, Odisha is already building 20 more synthetic turfs for hockey.
“Soon, our kids will play on synthetic and not on grass from the grassroots level itself. Our next step is to put good coaches in place at each of these new turfs so that they receive the best coaching at the grassroots level itself.”

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