From time to time, I consult my crystal ball which, alas, is exclusively hockey-centric. Otherwise, I would be a wealthy man from its financial predictions, if at all it would predict Sensex and DJIA fortunes. So getting rich remains a pipe dream and I may as well remain with hockey. So here goes…
The first warning that the ball gives me is that the best 18 Indian players are not going to the OGs. Didn’t we all know this? With a corrupt and illegitimate IHF and a toothless HI resorting to Mahabharat-like intrigue and sordid political battles on India’s (sacred?) hockey turf; the true face of Indian hockey is mired in subterfuge and neglect. Like a desperate luckless thoroughbred trying to get out of a quick-sand trap laid by unscrupulous bookies. The true face of Indian hockey being the players. All those that played in the WSH were not considered for selection to the Indian team. What a shame and national loss, because several from WSH deserve to be in the squad. So in effect, India is taking along their second best to play with the very best that the world has to offer.
Given the above dismal scenario, do we still expect a top 6 finish? Are we all blind to the sad reality of Indian hockey or are we eternal optimists living in the past glory of the 7.25 golds that India won at hockey in the OGs?
To really predict India’s chances, let’s look at our group at the OGs. India is in Group B with Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Korea and Belgium. All teams have a better record against the Indians in the recent past. On this basis, India should be playing for 11th-12th position.
But, the ball tells otherwise. Let’s see what India has in store with each team.
India vs the Netherlands (July 30th, 2012):
This is the most crucial match for India. It shall set the tone for matches to follow and for a confidence-fragile India could be the last straw that’ll break the Indian’s proverbial back, if we don’t play well in this one. The Dutch are not taking any chances and have gone for experience by including Take Taekeema and Teun de Nooijer, both proven but aging match winners. If India controls or even exercises 50% of possession in the mid-field AND the defense plays out of their skins, India can hope for a draw.
Prediction – :) Win (Super-optimistic), Loss (Most probable), :( Crushing loss (bad) – Nobbs makes no comments after this one.
India vs New Zealand (August 1st 2012):
Irrespective of India’s recent 5-2 debacle against the black-sticks at Azlan Shah in Malaysia, India should draw this one. Only because the forwards should come good and score some stunners. And if India shall loose their first match against the Dutch, India might go for broke, and then a victory is very possible.
Prediction – :) Win (marginally optimistic), Draw (most probable), :( Loss (too bad) – Nobbs placating and supporting the Indian team in the post-match media circus.
India vs. Germany (Aug 3rd, 2012)
For this one, the crystal ball is all warm and fuzzy. It predicts an outright win for India! The Germans are the Olympic champs and WC runner-ups and probably the fittest team, but India is going to play a solid vintage-hockey match here. The PCs will come good and the defense shall be solid. Most importantly, Nobbs will order an all-out attack against the stoic, technically sound but inherently defensive Germans. The team will obey and deliver, causing a major upset. This could be very true, especially if in the previous against the Black sticks, the Indians have come away with a big win.
Prediction – :) Win by a 2 goal margin (Super Optimistic), Win by a 1 goal margin (Most probable), :( Loss (Tragic) – Nobbs ecstatic, waxing eloquent!
India vs Korea (Aug 4th 2012)
This one will be a Herculean match. Having given 150% against the Germans the previous day, India will be lucky with a draw. Even though the Koreans have been a pale shadow of themselves in the recent past, they are well known for their speed, super fitness and great finish rates. This is going to be a tough nut to crack.
Predictions – :) Win (Optimistic), Draw (most probable), :( Loss (Disastrous) – Nobbs thinking of retiring to the Queensland coast.
India Vs. Belgium (Aug 7th 2012):
India should win this. With two days of rest, this should be a breeze. But, no! The crystal ball does not buy it. True to form, the Belgians will extract a draw against the Indians. They have some young and talented strikers and play deep into the match. So India will remain stretched and play a patchy unremarkable game.
Predictions – :) Win (Optimistic), Draw (most probable), :( Loss (Incalculable loss) – Nobbs, HI, SAI and the sports minister inconsolable. IHF – ecstatic!
Let’s hope India gets more :)’s than :(‘s right, because if the “most probable” predictions come true, then it’s curtains for Nobbs, Batra and Maken. More importantly, Indian hockey will be dealt a mortal blow.
Millions of Indian hockey lovers crave for an Indian hockey swan song in the coming games. The officials and especially the Aussie-import coach should now put their money where their mouth is, because “hell hath no fury like an Indian hockey fan scorned”.
It’s time to deliver!
Author’s CYA note:
The above predictions are not from a crystal ball. The described ball does not exist. The predictions are the musings of a hockey fan with too much time on his hands. Use the predictions for illegal betting at your own risk. The author will never be liable for any injury or loss – monetary or emotional – from the reliance on or use of the above predictions. Based on a fictitious study at the non-existent Institute of Hockey Result Probability (HRP) – Hockey match result predictions inherently are fraught with 50% failure rates. Please be warned, that on any given day, even the hockey-David can slay the hockey-Goliath. It is purely dependent on the direction from where the sun rises on that given day.