Indian hockey men’s team coach Graham Reid may have introduced a new brand of aggressive and ultra-attacking style of play to the team but attack is not just what he is about, claimed defender Birendra Lakra.
“Although chief coach Graham’s training often involves high-intensity sessions where he likes to see quality attack, he is also very clear about his expectations from the team’s defence,” the 30-year-old told the Press Trust of India.
“Graham tells us that a strong line of defence can not only win matches but it can also win us tournaments. There have been times when we have slipped up in defence in the final moments. But I believe we have improved this aspect and the coach often says our defence starts with our forwardline.”
Defence a key reason for FIH Pro League performances
The Indian hockey men’s team, which is currently fourth in the now-suspended FIH Pro League with 10 points, has been banking largely on its attacking prowess to reach that place but the defence made a grandiose effort in its last match against Australia.
The backline intercepted several passes to break up the Kookaburras’ play in the final third by positioning themselves tactically and also did not let any penalty corners go in, thereby protecting their lead and forcing the tie to a penalty shootout, which the Indian hockey men’s team won.
Birendra Lakra, one of the senior statesmen in the Indian hockey men’s team, has featured in the backline a few times in six FIH Pro League matches so far.
However, the 30-year-old, who missed out on the Rio 2016 squad due to injury, knows he is not a shoo-in to the Indian hockey men’s team for the 2020 Olympics.
“I may be an experienced defender in the team, but I can’t take my place for granted. Each one of us has to earn our place in the squad for Tokyo and this means we give our 100 per cent in training and matches,” he said.