Hockey … India

The Indian hickey team lost every single match at the Olympics … Including to South Korea, Belgium, and South Africa. That India lost to Netherlands, Germany, and New Zealand sort of seemed to be an assumption. This is the point when it seems to be very tempting to write the epitaph of Indian hockey. But lets look at an analysis of the point at which Indian hockey is.

Hockey in India has been at the receiving end of apathy for decades now, at least two, would you say? And yet, every two years, once during the Asian games, and once during the Commonwealth games, or the Olympics we that Indian hockey is going downhill, harking back to the glory days of Indian hockey, when we saw (here i am talking about my generation) players like Pargat Singh, M. P. Singh, Mohammed Shahid, Zafar Iqbal, Jude Felix, Merwyn Fernandes, or Salim Sherwani, Hassan Sardar, Samiullah, Karimullah play hockey for the subcontinental giants, or the fact that India has won 10 medals in hockey, out of which 8 have been gold medals. One thing we need to understand, and expect, is that it will take at least 4-5 years for Indian hockey to reach somewhere close to the glory days. This is a long term strategy, and while we should certainly try for a podium finish at Rio, we shouldnt expect it, i feel.

Having said that, lets look at the other side. Today, India is at a point where we can either choose to be the dominant team among the minnows, or be the minnow in the big league, and we have reached from the former to the latter. This, i feel, has come with comparative ease, and the credit should go to the players, coach, and administrators, though frankly, my knowledge of hockey comes from what i watch, or what i read. Having said that, what is surprising is that even though we lost, the quality of hockey played by the team is far inferior to what they played at the Olympic qualifiers, or at the Azlan Shah cup recently. While losing to Netherlands and Germany was expected, the team played a good game versus the Dutch, and if we see how the Dutch demolished Great Britain in the semi-final, India certainly played very well. I suppose the team started losing their way from the match versus Germany, and from there, it was downhill. Maybe its, like former skipper Dhanraj Pillay says, something outside the field which was bothering the team members.

Whatever way it be, we need to look at the picture in its entirety, and see how Indian hockey can, given encouragement, reach the levels of past glory.

2 Comments on “Hockey … India”

  1. Anup says:

    Media hype made us believe we could have a podium finish with luck. A more reasonable expectation was finishing somewhere between 6th and 8th. Therefore, we feel devastated at finishing 12th. What makes it worse is that we lost every single match that we played.

    A few things come out very clearly while reading comments by the so-called experts (including ex-India players)
    1. Politics is too well entrenched into their mindsets, with 2 clear lobbies supporting IHF and HI. Neither loses any opportunity to make things uncomfortable for the other. Dhanraj’s grouse is that HI didn’t allow players to participate in Indian Hockey League, so he is hinting that’s why players didn’t play well.

    2. Others like Bhaskaran etc. are back to their old story … don’t have foreign coaches because they are not comfortable with Indian style of play and are trying to make the team change. Instead hire us as coaches and we will continue to play as we used to, never mind the results.

    3. Coach Nobbs puts things in very clear perspective, when he says “As soon as the pressure mounts, the team goes back to playing their old style, making the same mistakes again and again, forgetting everything that I’ve taught them over past year or so. During training they agree that the old style doesn’t work anymore, but out their in the middle they forget everything.”

    Some of the points he has highlighted time and again:
    1. Our old style no longer works.
    2. We can not rely on long passes because other teams are able to intercept them easily.
    3. We cannot leave defense to only the defenders – modern hockey calls for all 11 players to fall back to defend.
    4. Similarly, we cannot leave attack to only the forwards – modern hockey calls for much greater mid-field control.
    5. One player cannot hold on to the ball because others have the ability and skill to challenge and take the ball away.
    6. In order to succeed at international level, we need to have change our game to use frequent short passes, learn to build up our attack with even the defenders and midfielders participating, and learn to shore up our defense with the forwards coming right back to help the defenders.
    7. However, our basic skills like trapping and passing are way below international level. Our fitness level is much worst off.
    8. Attempts to improve basic skills like trapping and passing have met with resistance from leading players like Rajpal Singh who think it is an insult.
    9. Attempts to improve fitness levels have been resisted by nearly everyone.

    What this says to me is:
    1. Neither our players nor our so-called experts are willing to come out of their comfort zones and take a look at what International hockey is all about today.
    2. They still believe that they can stay in their comfort zones and keep playing the way they have been playing since last 30 years, and by some magic they will succeed.
    3. They are encouraged in this belief by the powers-that-be in order to retain their support to stay in power in the respective associations.
    4. Instead of laying out a systematic plan with periodic targets, we are all looking for quick-fix solutions which just do not work.

    • thoughtsandme2004 says:

      You put it quite well, Anup. Hockey is played today with the speed of T20, what we used to play was like test cricket. What was surprising, though, was that they played much worse at Olympics than before. Why would that be?

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