Cricketing History

Now this video should be a mandatory part of any cricketer’s education … and if you either have dreams of having been a batsman, or aspirations to be one, then this is a must-watch.

All six of them effortless. Sheer poetry.

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.

Thoughts From The Match …

Writing some thoughts i had at the India-Britain match today. India lost 3-2, but often, the scoreline doesnt tell the entire story. Which is why i felt the need to write these thughts … Also to write what i feel is the direction the team seems to be taking.

To begin with, we need to be clear of one thing … We should not evaluate the performance of the team on a match-by-match basis. The kind of improvement we are talking about is a long-drawn process. Over the last few years, India have been underdogs in most of the tournaments we have played. Though there have been flashes of brilliance, like winning the Asia Cup, these have been, at best, flashes. What we need is sustained performance, for which, is required sustained improvement.

Coming back to the game … India were playing the tournament favourites. If the Indian team were underdogs, playing the favourites, the match would have been one-sided. That the match wasnt.

Passing in the Indian team seemed to be non-existent. The defence was terrible, and man-to-man marking in the D was non-existent. Maybe tgere were too many solo runs. The British had 56% possession of the ball, and yet, the score was 3-2.

What this means is this … I felt the Indian team was playing suboptimally tonight, and yet, played a game, against the tournament favourites, which was quite balanced. What this means is that if thenIndian team play to their potential, the team can win against any side. What the team probably needs time … And opportunity. One factor, i feel, is that Michael Nobbs needs to be given time to develop to their potential. With his coachng, they can.

What hockey needs in the subcontinent is encouragement, for both India and Pakistan to reach again the glory we once had. Jut a thought … Why cant India and Pakistan host a hockey tournament, an annual fixture, to match the Champions Trophy? This would build enthusiasm for the game.

As for the Indian team … Go for it, Mr. Nobbs. And for the team … Guys, go for gold. There are lots of folks in the country who are looking forward to an Olympic medal in hockey.

Football Game

Today was the last day of the football league (yes, I still persist in the quaint habit of calling the game football). Officially, its the soccer league. Well, sonny’s team drew the game, which wasn’t surprising, though they could have won, but that’s not the point, given that it was a friendly game. Besides, that’s not what I am writing about.

Today, there was a parents’ match. Now, given that I am on top of the fitness scale, finding a position for me to play at was a dilemma. But with my penchant for genious, I quickly found the best position for me to play at … Goalkeeper. Stated objective: role model for son, so he can watch papa goalkeeping, learn the things not to do, and so on … Hidden agenda: play so that I don’t get acquainted with muscles and joints I didn’t even know existed. Well, son was playing another match on the next pitch, and whatever little he could see me, he clearly wasn’t impressed.

Coming back to the game … Two coaches were playing on the other team. Well, its clear what that means. Our team played valiantly, and we almost scored a couple of times. Me, on my part, valiantly saved some five goals. Translated, that means I saved two goals, and attentively saw three shots whizzing past me, the ball in a blur. And then it happened … Handball in the D. Penalty. I was prepared for it. I was sure he (no moms played … They had too much make-up on, and dresses too glamorous for football) would hit ball in one of the corners of the goal (we were playing with a hockey goal, which as you know is less than half the size of the football goal), but I had the corners covered, and was sure I would be able to save it. Surprise … He took a straight, low shot, which just went through between the legs. I tried valiantly to save it, but it was rendered geometrically difficult by the little paunch I have only lately been sporting. And while on the subject of paunches, I am sure you would have heard of headers, but have you heard of paunchers? Well, I saw one today. Quite effective it was, because everybody was expecting a heade. Final scoreline … 1-0, though that’s only part of the story.

Hockey in South Asia?

Yesterday, there were two matches … Pakistan were playing Australia and India were playing South Africa. No, this is not cricket, but the poor cousin (at least as far as South Asia goes), hockey. Pity hockey is only the national sport on India. We have been told that the 7-1 loss to Pakistan at the Asian Games in Delhi was the factor which sealed the fate of Indian hockey. I dont quite agree. If this be the scene, then what sealed the fate of Pakistan hockey? Pakistan doesnt seem to be doing much better than India at hockey in the world cup, at least. On the other hand, they actually lost to India 4-1, two misses from Sohail Abbas notwithstanding.

Be that as it may, thats not really the question i am looking at here. Somehow, hockey in South Asia has not been able to evolve with the changes in the playing conditions. There is astro-turf, but then, thats been around for two decades now, i think, and one would think by now we would be able to adapt to it. After all, with our skill and technique in hockey, we should be able to adapt to conditions. I am talking here about both India and Pakistan. Now i am not an expert on this, but maybe some of the rules are also not conducive to our brand of hockey? Even if they are not, we have to live by them, and adapt our hockey to them. From the way both Indian and Pakistani teams seem to be going in the world cup, seems the problems for both are the same (sometimes i think the only problem India and Pakistan dont share is the performance of the cricket teams, and that too is only a periodic phenomenon).

This is where the idea came to me, would it be helpful if India and Pakistan were to collaborate to develop hockey? Maybe create a place where the hockey talent of both the nations can be nurtured and brought to a level of global excellence? See, as it is, the only thing we do is fight with each other. And while there is a school of thought that cricket could help heal the divide between the two countries, fact is that the fight between India and Pakistan becomes more pronounced when the two teams are playing each other. So probably more than cricket, hockey has a chance? And this is the question i am asking you today. Looking from two perspectives, one of creating excellence in hockey in South Asia (remember the time when Pakistan won the cricket world cup down under and people in India were happy that at least the world cup came to South Asia?), and another for fostering greater sporting ties of a collaborative nature between the two countries? Maybe India-Pakistan hockey league? Or similar ideas? Please do post your opinions on the poll.

Please do post your opinion. Who knows we may make something out of it? Do post your comments too.

Hockey India …

Recently, there is a tournament which is going on which is notable for its being ignored by the media in a big way. Of course, it has to be, given that India is touring Sri Lanka, but having said that, there were quite a few large things which happened.

The tournament i am writing about is the Punjab Gold Cup … being played at Chandigarh. This is a four-nation tournament … Hosts India, playing New Zealand (who are featuring in the tournament, courtesy some lunatics who attacked Mumbai on 26/11, and seem to be the minnows of the tournament), Holland (a formidable team, no matter which way you look at it), and Germany (world champions, olympics champions, champions trophy holders … the best team in the world today). Quite a mean achievement, isnt it? It is, especially when you read the scorelines.

India beat New Zealand 2-1, India drew with Holland 4-4, thanks to 3 goals in 5 minutes, and India stunned Germany 2-0. Which is wonderful, or at least, is a wonderful indicator of the way Indian hockey could take. Having said that, what i find even more interesting is the fact that which channel was showing these matches was one of the best kept secrets of Indian media. The other evening, i was looking forward to the India-Germany fixture, and i surfed all the channels, but couldnt find the channel which was telecasting this match. So, either no channel was showing this match, or whichever channel was showing this match, were very successful in keeping it a secret. Shhhhh … dont tell anyone we actually showed a hockey match.

Whats even more interesting? The fact that most news channels just have a 1 minute, blink-and-you-will-miss-it coverage of the matches. Whats still more interesting is that there is far more airtime being given to off-the-field goings-on, than to on-the-field hockey. Somehow, the media seems to be allergic to highlight the highs of Indian hockey, but there seems to be a lot of coverage, and opinions, about the off-the-field goings-on in Indian hockey. One would wish they would just do justice to the national sport.