Mumbai: Former Indian Olympian Dhanraj Pillay has hailed national hockey coach Michael Nobbs for his contribution after India thrashed France 8-1 in the final of the Olympic qualifiers on Sunday to book their spot for this year's London Games.
"I have no words to describe this victory. Today, I feel very proud to be an India hockey player (after representing India in four Olympics, four Asian Games and four World Cups). The best part of this victory is that the players played a very unselfish brand of hockey. Traditionally, Indian hockey is known to be individualistic. But credit for this change in approach must go to new coach Michael Nobbs," Dhanraj said while talking to Mid-Day.
Dhanraj said Nobbs is the person who tried different combinations and it paid off. He has extracted the best from the likes of Sandeep Singh and Sardara Singh, the former player added.
"He has brought about a great turnaround. He extracted fantastic performances from players like Sandeep Singh and Sardar Singh. Sandeep is world-class and he showed it in the final. Sardar has been performing the role of three players through his work ethics the way he plays in the midfield.
With 16 goals to his name, Sandeep bagged the highest goal-scorer award while Sardar Singh was adjudged the Player of the Tournament that ended in New Delhi on Sunday.
Dhanraj although conceded that India are still far from matching the hockey standards of Australia, Germany and the other top-ranked teams, they are definitely moving in the right direction.
"Though the Indian team is still far away from the likes of Australia, Germany or Holland, they are surely worthy of being part of the Olympic Games. The desperation and hunger after the Beijing disaster in 2008 was very evident in Delhi on Sunday.
Dhanraj feels it will be too early to expect a podium finish from this team at the London Games and says the Indian coach should make a couple of changes to the squad before the mega event.
"Though expecting a medal now at the Olympics is still far-fetched, I think a top six performance will be creditable and gettable. But for that, Nobbs will have to make at least a couple of changes to the line-up."
"He must bring in Adrian D'souza in place of (current captain) Bharat Chhetri and Arjun Halappa should come in for Yuvraj Walmiki. Vikram Pillay also fits into this Indian team. Having said that, Nobbs has still a lot of work to do with the team and he just has three months to do so.
"He must keep the bunch together and ensure the fitness levels are maintained. If he can do this, a top six finish in London is definitely possible."