Following a disappointing World Cup campaign, Indian men's hockey team chief coach Terry Walsh is not expecting anything miraculous from his wards in the upcoming Commonwealth Games and has set 'improvement' as the main objective in the quadrennial event.
India finished a lowly ninth in the recent World Cup at The Hague, Netherlands but Walsh said, notwithstanding, the result his wards are growing as a team with every passing day.
"Our big objective (in CWG) is to improve our game and finish in the top two in our pool and then move into the crossover situations. It's an important tournament leading to the Asian Games. So we are looking for improvement during the tournament. Our objective is to grow during the tournament," the Australian said during a practice session at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Friday.
India were the silver medallist in the 2010 Delhi CWG after having suffered a humiliating 0-8 defeat to world champions Australia in the final.
Even though the Sardar Singh-led side has progressed considerably since then, which was visible in their 0-4 loss to Australia in the World Cup, Walsh feels the Kookaburras belong to an altogether different league and will have no match in the July 24-August 3 event to be held in Glasgow.
"Australia are the biggest team in our pool. South Africa is always difficult when it comes to a tournament. Our first two games are against Wales and Scotland," Walsh said about India's opponents in Pool A.
"My view is all about improvement. A this point I don't think we are good enough to play Australia. I think we are good enough to take on England and New Zealand who are the other top teams in this competition. To me its a matter of performing well and rising. The target is improvement."
Pool B, meanwhile, consists of England, New Zealand, Malaysia, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago.
"England is a game our guys want to play but of course they are in other pool. So for that to happen we will have to finish in the top two in our pool," Walsh said.
In the World Cup, the Indians were guilty of conceding late goals which eventually marred their prospects. Asked Walsh about the problem, he conceded it is an issue but not a big concern.
"I think that's (conceding late goals) an issue we had in the first two games (in the World Cup). But it's not something that's perennial. We actually have been able to sort that in the last few games in the World Cup. We have been dealing with it. We have handled that reasonably well, so I don't consider it to be a big issue," the coach said.
"We have been working a lot to bring some power in the scoring zone, we have been working on to be able to control the game itself and don't give away careless possessions. These are the two big areas we have been looking at," Walsh said about his side's preparations.
India captain Sardar Singh, meanwhile, has set his sights on a top two finish in the Glasgow CWG.
"We have worked on the mistakes which we committed in the World Cup, like conceding late goals and penalty corner conversions. The target of all players is to win a gold becuase we have improved a lot since the World Cup. Our entire focus now is on Commonwealth Games. The team has improved a lot in the last last few years," he said.
Sardar said the return of experienced Danish Mujtaba and Gurwinder Singh Chandi after injury lay-off augers well for India.
"Both Danish and Chandi has plenty of experience behind their back so their return is a positive sign for us. In any sport experience counts a lot," he signed off.
India will leave for Glasgow on Sunday early morning and will open their campaign against Wales on July 25.