New Delhi: Newly appointed Indian men's hockey team coach Sjoerd Marijne will face his first big test once his wards start their Asia Cup campaign in Dhaka on Wednesday. India, who were the runners-up in the last edition held in 2013, go into the tournament as favourites given the fact that they are the only Asian side to be in the top 10 of the FIH rankings.
The Dutchman, who took over from the experienced Roelant Oltmans, is hoping that this tournament provides him the answers which will help him decide on the course that he needs to take in the months to come. This is the beginning of a busy period for the Indian team and Marijne said that he wants the team to begin on a victorious note in an exclusive interview with News18 Sports.
"We will play to win, no doubt about that. According to the rankings we are the best in Asia and we have to play like that. I have spent some time with the boys and this tournament will help me understand how to proceed ahead."
"The boys like to play dynamic hockey and I am also in favour of playing for results. The Asia Cup will be the best opportunity for me to know the style of hockey the team is comfortable with," the former Indian women's team coach said during a telephonic conversation before embarking on the trip to Dhaka.
His predecessor Oltmans had managed to take Indian hockey out of the nadir it had touched after the 2012 London Olympics, but one of India's biggest weaknesses over the years has been a leaking defence and Marijne wants a solution to that at the earliest.
"We need to structure our defence and that is a big goal for me. You can score as many goals as you want but if the defence is not strong and resolute then it will backfire. I will use this tournament to try and recognise the defensive combinations that we want to play in the other big tournaments that are coming up."
Marijne also said that he is happy with the balance of experience and youth in the team as it important to have both kind of players in a successful unit. "Age is never a criteria for me, whoever performs well will get a place in the squad. Having said that I must say that it helps to have experienced players around to guide the youngsters," the 43-year old said.
India start their campaign against Japan on Wednesday and face arch-rivals Pakistan on Sunday. Asked what his views are about an Indo-Pak clash, Marijne said that he understands the emotions associated with the match.
"I really like how Indians are so emotional about hockey. The match against Pakistan will be big and we will give it our best, but we must take one match at a time," the coach signed off.