Indian Hockey: Is the current form a resurgence?
India’s current results in the ongoing 34th Champions Trophy might raise a few eyebrows, especially after the dismal performance at the last Olympics, but it is true that they are performing surprisingly well and have reached the semi finals.
India started off their campaign with a 3-1 win over England. After going a goal down in the 15th minute, to everybody’s surprise, they came back strongly and levelled the scores before the half time. The second half had a different story to tell. India scored two goals to win the game.
India had a relatively easy encounter against New Zealand. And again continuing on the form that they displayed against the English, they trounced the opposition 4-2.
Their third game was against a much coveted opposition in the form of Germany. India started off well and were leading 2-1 till the 56th minute and the fans were about to witness something spectacular. But the Germans came back strongly to win the game 3-2. Nevertheless, India topped the pool with two wins and a loss.
In the second round, they defeated the Belgian side with a solitary goal and that was enough to put them into the semi finals, where they are to face a very strong and formidable opposition in the the form of Australia.
So what can be the underlying reasons for such a performance? There hasn’t been any dramatic change in the team selection, neither a change of coach and subsequently in the playing tactics. They are still playing on the same kind of astro turf and neither is there a dip in the quality of the opposition that they have faced. But the results indicate India have improved considerably in these 5 months. The possible explanation could be the level of expectations from the fans that translates into performance pressure on the players. Whenever a great sporting event like the Olympics comes around, we have a tendency of hyping our expectation level from the players, who undoubtedly have the quality to perform at the highest level but might be too naive at the highest level to sustain the pressure created due to the fans’ expectations, and that translated itself into their poor performance.
After the Olympics, we, the fans have reduced our expectation levels from the Hockey team, followed by many fans shifting their loyalty to other sports. Majority of the hockey enthusiasts are not even aware that India is taking part in the ongoing Champions Trophy. As a result, the players did not have to carry the burden of expectations and the results are showing. It is to be noted that some of the teams that India played in the Champions trophy defeated us in the Olympics. So it is all about the expectations and how the team responds to them.
Whether they can overcome the Aussies to reach the finals is a different equation altogether. But the question is, is it too early to conclude that the ongoing form of the Indian team is a resurgence, especially after their abysmal performance in the Olympics? Or do we have to wait more for their continued run in form? But one thing is for sure, the fans are again switching back to Hockey, at least those who left after the Olympics.
I believe if the players are given enough time to gel together, desired results are not very far.