Former Australia striker Glenn Turner is the latest to join the Indian hockey ranks. The recently-retired Australian, who is a twice World Cup winner and also played for Kalinga Lancers in the Hockey India League, is the second of the current generation — after former team mate Chris Ciriello — who has been assisting the Indian players. Turner, who was originally supposed to train the Indian men’s team, assisted the Indian women’s players at an eight-day camp in Bengaluru.
He is currently in Bhubaneswar to watch the Men’s World Cup and backed Australia to lift the title yet agains while also not ruling out hosts India, who have reached the quarter-finals of the mega tournament. Excerpts from an interview:
Please tell us about your role with the women’s hockey team: My role here was to come to Bangalore and coach the women’s national team, their strikers and hopefully help them learn more ways to score a goal. I was here for a week for that, and had a lot of fun. They have a lot of talent. Then I thought if I am in India, might as well come and watch the World Cup. I miss playing but the next best thing is to watch the game. Bhubaneswar is like my second home, so I had to come back.
The Indian men’s team have done well here so far but seems the strikers seem to have finishing problem. Your take?
India scored some nice goals the other night. You have to be calm but also fast in the circle, that’s the hardest thing. You can’t be slow. You can’t be frantic else you would miss the ball. The other night, Lalit (Upadhyay) missed a goal he could’ve probably scored when the game was tight. And then he gets the same chance again, and he’s more calm because he has already scored a goal and the team is more relaxed. Just watching India train now, they’re looking sharp.
Is it possible to change a player’s technique at this stage after having played a particular way all his life?
All players have habits that they do most, but it can be changed somewhat. I changed mine in the last couple of years. I trained everywhere I went, practised with purpose. I played in the Netherlands, Malaysia, changed the technique there. You have to think about training with purpose and changing the bad habits, otherwise you would not getting better. You can change quickly if you’re willing to change yourself for it.
So it is the change in the mindset or the technique? It’s both. If you get the technique right, it becomes easier. But scoring a goal in training and in a game with close to 15,000 people screaming is a lot different. It’s a different world out there.
What do you think of India’s chances in the knockouts?
I think they’ll play Holland but you never know. I don’t think India are scared of Holland now. If they are not scared, then they can beat anyone in the world including Australia. You have to believe it, but if you go into the game thinking Australia are better, even just a little bit, then you’re already on the back foot.
How much has India improved since the time you played against them?
India have definitely improved since we’ve played. When we played them, we never wanted to take them on one on one too much. I always knew that if I gave an early pass and ran, my advantage was to hope that the defender doesn’t run quick enough. That was something we tried to do, move the ball, always faster than the player, and there aren’t too many situations where the defender can make a clean tackle on you. So be strong and tough in the circle but India are getting better at defending in the circle.
Are they fitter now?
India look fit. They’re running over the top of teams at the end of the game, which is always a good sign. Other night, they finished really well. They’re looking fast and fit, which is a good sign.
Do you think there are similarities in the Indian and the Australian style of play?
Yes. They play similar. But they have different skills in different areas. The Indian men play a lot more similar to Australia, a lot more press in, going out and putting pressure on the defenders. If you watch some other games, some teams get the ball and don’t go forward. India and Australia do that well.
On what has changed in Australian hockey in the last few years: A lot of the stars have gone, but stars are made from winning big tournaments. We weren’t stars until we won the big tournaments. Whoever wins this tournament becomes a star. And if Australia win this, they’ll become the stars. They’ve won everything they’ve been in since the Olympics. If they play like they did against China, then it’s going to be hard for every team year. But any team can win, same with every tournament, except the 2014 World Cup.
Harpreet Kaur Lamba - Bhubaneswar Images: WorldSportPics