Hockey World Cup: Crucial for India to improve PC conversion rate

Harendra insists more variations and different flickers would be tried out against Belgium

On Wednesday, India earned five penalty corners and converted two, neither direct. Belgium could not convert any of its seven.

On a stage like the World Cup, those numbers may well be the difference between winning and losing.

India’s woes in the department are not new.

At the Asian Games, the conversion rate was far below the 50% – a huge improvement on the three out of 33 that it managed at the Commonwealth Games.

Reluctance

The reluctance of successive coaches to not attempt too many variations or even give more opportunities to the second and third line of drag-flickers in the side has also remained an unsolved mystery.

Coach Harendra Singh insisted things have changed.

“There will be a lot more variations seen here and they will be done regardless of the situation or state of the game. We have worked on our drills and we will certainly try and use them.

“Also, like we did against South Africa, all three of our players — Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar and Amit Rohidas — will get their chances,” he told The Hindu on the team’s rest day after its opening game here.

Improved defence

Shane McLeod, on the other hand, credited improving standards of defence.

“Teams are getting very good at defending corners. The goalkeeping is also at a very high level internationally at the moment.

“Our goalkeeper (Vincent Vanasche) is at a very high level and Sreejesh has taken some very big steps in that area in recent years,” the Belgian coach admitted.

But both agree that the final flick is just 1/3rd of the entire routine even though the scorer alone gets both the bouquets and brickbats.

“In the first match also, there was problem with both injection and stopping at different moments, and once we couldn’t stop.

“ All of it matters, specially now, when the space for stopping has become very small,” Harendra explained.

Differentiator

They both believe PCs could end up being the differentiator on Sunday.

“May be corners are going to be the deciding factor with both teams pretty even in their abilities in those areas,” McLeod said.

“We have three very good flickers, as have they including Tom Boon.

“PCs will play a huge role in the outcome of the game,” Harendra agreed.

With space shrinking and margin of error minuscule, Sunday would be a good time for the flickers to step up and be counted.

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