India hockey players feel the presence of former captain Dilip Tirkey and goalkeeper A.B.Subbaiah as part of the back-up staff is helping them prepare better for the 2012 London Olympics qualifiers to be held here February 18-26.
Tirkey, a government observer in Hockey India (HI) selection committee, has been helping out the defenders on the essentials of tackling and recovery once beaten. Tirkey, who played in three Olympics (Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004), was one of the most competent defenders in the world because of his tight marking skill near goal post.
Tirkey has also been assigned the task of analysing the strength and the weaknesses of all the participating team in the qualifiers.
As for Subbaiah, he has been with the Indian team on and off and the two goalkeepers skipper Bharat Chhetri and P.Sreejesh have been exchanging notes with the former India goal tender as he is yet to join the camp at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.
Senior player and ace drag-flicker said Tirkey's experience is helping the team.
"Tirkey's experience is helping us enormously as he has gone through the drill for a number of years, and we realise his knowledge of situational play is far more than what we have," said drag-flicker Sandeep Singh.
"For instance, he has explained to us how to organise defence on a counter-attack and how to avoid panic tackling inside the striking area as a mistake there invariably leads to penalty-corner or even a more severe infringement," he said.
"Defence is very important because of late we have conceded crucial goals under pressure. He is helping us on how to stop counters and what to do in pressure situations," Sandeep added.
India coach Michael Nobbs said Tirkey is helping the players to fine tune with their skills.
"Dilip has joined the camp a few days back and he is taking care of the defensive line. We have brought him to fine-tune this area. In the next 4-5 days we will complete the analysis of all the participating teams," he said.
"Penalty corner is a very important aspect in modern day hockey. They can win or lose you a game. We are getting better and better in penalty corners. We have 3-4 best drag-flickers in our team," the Australian added.
Chettri said Tirkey's experience is helping the team in handling pressure.
"Dilip is working hard with the defenders and his experience will be very handy. He is working on every aspect of defence," he said.
Chettri said he is also in touch with Subbaiah.
"He is yet to join the camp but both me and Sreejesh we are in constant touch with him. We discuss the different techniques and how to keep ourself cool under pressure," he said.