India hockey coach Roelant Oltmans says midfielder Devindar Walmiki, who was ignored for the national camp, needs to show major improvement to get a call-up
India and Mumbai midfielder Devindar Walmiki
He was in the playing XI of this season’s Hockey India League champions Kalinga Lancers, the Indian team that emerged victorious in the 2016 Asian Champions Trophy (India defeated Pakistan 3-2), Rio Olympics squad and the historic 2016 Hockey Champions Trophy (where India won silver after losing to Australia).
But even after all these prime appearances, it was a surprise to see Mumbai’s Devindar Walmiki omitted from the list of 33 probables selected by chief coach Roelant Oltmans for the national camp in preparation for major competitions this year.
“I’ve had a talk with Devindar. Between him and me, we were clear about the reasons why he was left out. I can’t tell you what we discussed, but I’ve told him on what areas he can improve in the future. Throughout last year, I was expecting an improvement, but I was not happy with his progress,” Oltmans told mid-day when asked about his decision to drop the prolific midfielder, the lone Mumbai player to represent the country at the Olympics following a gap of 12 years, after Mumbai-based Dhanraj Pillay, Viren Rasquinha, Adrian D’Souza and Vikram Pillay, who were part of the Indian team at Athens 2004.
Walmiki was the cynosure of all eyes when he scored a goal in his international debut against France in the 2015 FIH World League Semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium. Besides, the 24-year-old Marine Lines resident is well-known for his quick reflexes in midfield and tackles defensive responsibilities with aplomb.
Asked if Walmiki would find a place in the Indian team in future, Oltmans, who has induced fresh young talent from the junior team keeping the 2018 World Cup in mind, said the young colt needs to follow the instructions given to him. “I can’t say right now. At this moment the only way is that he should follow the orders. He should improve on the areas we discussed. Devindar’s return also depends on the performance of the team as well,” the Dutch coach explained.
The Indian team’s first assignment will be the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in April, followed by the Hockey World League Semifinal in London. Oltmans revealed the team is looking at changing their style of play. “We are very effective with our possession, but we are trying to increase that. “Defensively too we want to improve. Our penalty corner conversion needs to increase. We are training a little less, but the quality is very high. The fitness of the players also needs to improve compared to Rio,” he added.
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