Ipoh, Malaysia: A comprehensive win might have been achieved, but India's interim coach Roelant Oltmans feels his team was a bit sloppy in the second half of its Asia Cup hockey tournament opener against Oman here on Saturday.
"It was a regular win. We played very well in the first half, but in the second half we were a bit sloppy. But it happens because it is difficult to give your 100 per cent concentration throughout the match, especially when you are 7-0, 8-0 up. The heat took a toll on us (in the second half)," the coach said after the Indians posted an 8-0 win at the Sultan Azlan Shah stadium here. (Read match report)
"But I am happy with the overall performance. It's always nice to get on the points tally."
Oltmans lauded captain Sardar Singh, saying that if fully fit, the mid-fielder will play a crucial role in deciding the team's fortunes in the tournament here.
Oltmans said he went against his own instinct and opted to play Sardar in India's opening Pool B match against the minnows to give the star mid-fielder ample time to get back to full shape before the business end of the tournament.
"I spoke to him last night as well as this morning and I must say he recovered very well from his throat problems. We all know Sardar in great shape will be important for us in the last stage of the tournament," the Dutchman said.
"So to bring him up in great shape he needs his minutes to play so we decided to play him 10 minutes in each half and we will build that up slowly up.
"Sardar is a great player when he is great shape. He can create a lot of opportunities for us. Our aim is to bring him a lot closer to the goal of the opponent," he said. Oltmans made it clear that he will play Sardar in phases during the entire tournament.
"Sardar will never play the entire 70 minutes. That is one of the reasons why he got injured. For the last four years he has been playing continuously. In modern hockey you can't play 70 minutes. It will kill the body," he said.
India had an injury scare in the last 10 minutes of the match today when Manpreet Singh was carried off the field because of a muscle strain, but Oltmans said it was more of a precautionary move.
"Manpreet's injury is nothing too serious. He was stretching too much to score a goal and suffered a strain. As a precaution we pulled him off the field. Manpreet will be fine. He has got a full day to recover tomorrow," he said.
India will take on title-holders Korea in their next Pool B match on August 26, and Oltmans admitted that it will be a tough encounter for his boys.
"There is no doubt that Korea is a very tough opponent. They showed that by becoming the first Asian team to qualify for the World Cup. We have to play at least as good as today or may be even better against Korea," he signed off.