The Malaysian players protest the umpire's call during their semi-final match against Canada in the Champions Challenge I tournament in Kuantan earlier this month.
KUALA LUMPUR: The national defenders must learn to clear the ball out of danger if Malaysia harbour hopes of doing well in the World Cup hockey tournament in The Hague, Holland, from May 31-June 15.
Former national defender Maninderjit Singh, also a former Malaysian Hockey Confederatrion (MHC) secretary general, said the present set of defenders do not have the ability to get the ball out of danger fast enough.
“Our defenders must make it a habit to get the ball out of defence. This is a drill that needs to be worked out and used in matches as part of their play. You need not be told when to clear the ball or get it to safety out of the defensive area.
“I see this particular aspect lacking in the team. But that is not to say they are not good. It is just that they have to do it naturally each time they are under pressure,” said Maninderjit, after observing the Malaysian team in action at the recent Champions Challenge I tournament in Kuantan.
S. Kuhan, who formed a solid defence with Maninderjit in the national team from 1996-2002, said there was still a lack of understanding in the team.
“Defenders need to understand each other’s game so that they can complement each other better.
“It’s the same for all the departments – midfield and attack. Once you understand your partner’s moves, it makes the task a lot easier. Mike (Maninderjit) and I played for a long time and we also played together at club level. So, I believe that the current players can develop such an understanding, given time,” said Kuhan.
The defenders in the national hockey team came in for some harsh criticism during the recent Champions Challenge I tournament in Kuantan. They conceded a total of 17 goals but managed to finish third in the eight-nation tournament despite finishing bottom during the group stage.
Maninderjit and Kuhan helped Malaysia to finish eighth at the 2002 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur. And they hope the present team will better their performance.
Both agreed that Malaysia have a tough task ahead in The Hague.
“We have a young side. The experience will do the team a world of good. It is all about grooming the team for the future. They lack the experience and it is only through playing in top-level tournaments that we can earn our place in the top ranks,” said Kuhan.