A recent run of good form has raised hopes of a strong result for the Indian hockey team in London, with much of the credit going to Nobbs. -Photo by AFP

IPOH: India's hockey coach ripped into his squad Friday over its pummelling by New Zealand a day before, saying much work remained before the former power was ready for the London Games.

Australian Michael Nobbs had especially harsh words for his defence, calling it “awful” for leaking what he called easy goals by the Black Sticks on the first day of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia.

“We were really bad at the back. Everything we talked about and practised in training was forgotten,” Nobbs told reporters in the northern Malaysian city of Ipoh, site of the annual hockey tournament.

The seven-team tournament which also includes Great Britain, Pakistan, Argentina, South Korea and Malaysia is an important last chance for teams to tune up and hone line-ups before the Olympics in July.

India dominated Olympic hockey from the 1920s to the 1950s. A recent run of good form has raised hopes of a strong result in London, with much of the credit going to Nobbs.

But Nobbs said the team went back to “our old style of play” against the Kiwis, accusing defenders of letting their marks get away, and singling out Rupinder Pal Singh and V.  Raghunath.

Nobbs said the side, ranked 10th in the world, must figure out how to raise its game against better teams like fourth-ranked Great Britain and seventh-ranked New Zealand if they want a good showing at the Olympics.

“We seemed to have problems with teams like Great Britain and New Zealand and need to close the gap playing them,” said Nobbs.

“Indian hockey needs to play catch-up and start defeating these teams in order for us to move up the rankings.”

Nobbs spoke as the team was readying for its second match late on Friday against the sixth-ranked South Koreans.

“The Koreans will be another tough opponent but one that we can defeat. It all boils down to how the players handle the pressure,” he said, adding he was optimistic the team would bounce back in coming games.

Nobbs further warned his players that the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, which runs to June 3, was a chance for him to determine who was worthy of a ticket to London.

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