Bangladesh national hockey team's Pakistani coach Naveed Alam might have found a lot of positives from the 0-3 defeat in the three-match series against a second-string India side, but the high-ups of Bangladesh Hockey Federation (BHF) are seemingly not satisfied with the performance of the team ahead of next month's Asian Games.
The Pakistani coach has been with the national side since July last year and guided his charges in the Asia Cup and Asian Games Qualifiers, to mixed results, but he has hardly managed to build a style which suits the team.
A disappointing seventh-place finish in the Asia Cup last year might have had reasons in unrest among the players but Naveed's charges struggled a lot against lesser teams like Iran, Sri Lanka and Singapore in the Asian Games Qualifiers this year and had a lot of weaknesses exposed during the series against India recently.
"Certainly there have been improvements in the side over the last year but it has been a slow one. Still there are gaps in the midfield which is considered the nucleus of a team," said BHF vice president Abdus Sadek on Monday, having watched all the three matches between Bangladesh and India.
Since the suspension of attacking midfielder Rasel Mahmud Jimmy and midfielder Quamruzzaman Rana after the Asia Cup campaign, a big vacuum has been created in the midfield, resulting in lost possessions numerous times during the series against India.
Besides, the defense also looked vulnerable due to the absence of suspended Imran Hasan Pintoo and the exclusion of experienced Moshiur Rahman Biplob. Naveed has yet to find good alternatives in those positions.
Even though BHF general secretary Khaza Rahmatullah did not express his frustration in public, he believes that Bangladesh must improve in some areas before the Asian Games if they are to achieve positive results.
"I talked to Naveed after the series. We must improve much in some areas. The players still lack positional senses, fitness and have poor receiving ability, especially on the air. Besides, there is also lack of coordination among the three departments," said the former national player.
Selectors of the national team have recently requested Naveed to bring changes in the backline with the inclusion of a few players from the Youth Olympic Games squad but the coach seems adamant about sticking with the current squad.
Former Bangladesh coach Mahbub Harun tried to find out the reasons behind the poor performance of the national team.
"It won't be wise to judge the national team through the three-match series which was held on a sluggish turf and where the coach tried different strategies. But the fact is that our players are not capable of playing in new formations every game. It would have been better to stick to one style and one formation," said Mahbub, who guided Bangladesh to an unprecedented third position in the World Hockey League (Round-2) in 2013.
Now the onus is on Naveed to show that his experiments have been worth it in the Asian Games.