Despite losing all its games in the Olympics Hockey Test Event, the Indian Hockey team had an impressive outing at the Riverbank Olympics Arena.
The Indian team started the tournament on a poor note when they lost their practice game against Australia 12-1. Their fortunes did not change even after the tournament had started and India went on to lose 3-0 to Australia once again. Winning continued to elude the Indian team in the next two games when they lost to Great Britain 4-2 and Germany 2-1. The losing trend did not end even when India went to the 3rd-4th playoff after they lost again to Great Britain.
Despite putting on decent performances against a better opposition, the Indian team made some common and silly mistakes or rather missed two valuable players who could have helped the Indian team fare better in the tournament. The Indian team missed many goal scoring opportunities in the tournament, and that problem could have been solved with the help of a poacher, and who better than Yuvraj Walmiki to handle the duties of a goal poacher.
Yuvraj Walmiki, who entered the hockey scene in the Asian Champions Trophy, is the best choice that the Indian team has to fill-in the role of a goal poacher. Quick on the field and a good reader of the game, Yuvraj’s positional awareness allows him to be in the right place at the right time. This makes him a very dangerous player. A team that focuses on attack, is currently missing an out and out center forward despite having the likes of Shivendra Singh and Tushar Khandekar in its ranks. With those two experienced players working around him, Yuvraj will easily fit-in the role of a conventional center forward, who will score goals for the Indian team. The speed of Kothjit Singh and SV Sunil in the wings will give enough opportunity to Yuvraj Walmiki to work the space in the center. The Indian team did not earn many penalty corners in this tournament and Yuvraj Walmiki can this change in the coming matches.
Currently Indian team will miss the services of Yuvraj Walmiki, who is nursing hamstring injury and until two weeks ago he did not even start jogging. So his participation in the London Olympics looks difficult. His timely return for the Olympics will surely give Indian team the edge it has missed so far.
Another problem faced by the Indian team is a lack of center half (or a defensive midfielder as they say in football) who can hold on the ball, control the tempo of the match and distribute the ball to other players. Along with poor defending, weak midfield is an area of concern for the Indian team. Presently, Sardara Singh is performing as the linkup-man but he is so overworked and marked that Indian team needs to find another player for this role.
The only Indian player who can fit in this role for India is Arjun Halappa. He is one of the most experienced campaigners for India, his experience will be very important for the Indian team. Despite being the most talented player in India, his skills have not been utilized by the Indian team management. A natural center half, he was forced to work in right where he was unable to function properly. If allowed to operate in the center half position, he will be able to distribute the ball and also help the Indian team in defence.
Along with Arjun, India also has another Indian player who can play the role of defensive midfielder that India needs, someone like Gurbaj Singh. He is still a work in progress, but what better way to become an understudy to India’s best player, Arjun.
This Indian team under Coach Nobbs has improved a lot and with just 2-3 changes, India will surely be able to compete with the top nations.