Slow revolution in Indian Hockey is underway
The story of Indian Hockey is quite similar to the Indian nation. Both dominated the world at one point in time - India from the times of Ashoka (268-232BC) to Samudra Gupta (335-380 AD) and Indian Hockey from the year 1928 to 1964. India as a nation made her presence known to the world after the 1991 economic reforms and today it's the fifth largest economy of the world.
Indian Hockey, on the other hand, was bereft of such moments and India was languishing in the 11th position in 2012 after a disappointing last-place finish at the 2012 summer Olympics.
Six years back, there was a sense of pessimism palpable among Indian fans. There was not a single player who could match the skills of Dhanraj Pillai. Even individual brilliance was not visible. Indian players, in their attempt to emulate the European style of play, completely forgot their own attacking style of Hockey. In desperate attempts at playing long passes, they lost their dexterity to successfully execute short and precise passes.
Then the single biggest reform in Indian Hockey materialized - the launch of Hockey India League in 2013. Most of the Indian players received more than $25000 in the inaugural edition itself with players like Sardar Singh receiving $75000. Suddenly, Indian hockey players found themselves playing with absolute legends of the sport, like Australia's Jamie Dwyer, Netherland's Teun de Nooijer, Germany's Moritz Furste, England's Ashley Jackson and so on. Indian Hockey finally came out of its astroturf-blaming mentality and Indian Hockey players received great exposure by playing alongside these legends.
Subsequently, India was blessed with a great coach in the form of Roelant Oltmans. He proved to be the John Wright of Indian Hockey. He raised the fitness standards of the players. Today, Indian players are the fittest in Asia and are at par with the European players. He encouraged the native attacking style of Hockey along with using the European methodological long passes in between. At the onset of his coaching career, he said that he would need six years to push India into the Top-3. By the time he was sacked earlier this year, India was already at six.
However, as fans, we want overnight results and after just two disappointing tournaments, a great coach was shown the door.
A quick glance at the Indian Hockey team's results is enough to gauge that we are witnessing a slow revolution.
Newly-appointed coach Mr Harendra Singh has already set his goal to take the Indian Hockey team to the top 3 by the end of the year. Before the start of Champions Trophy 2018, he made it clear that he would not settle for anything less than winning the trophy. India though lost to Australia in the penalty shootout in the final, settling for Silver in the end. Harendra Singh has already proven his mettle by guiding the junior hockey team to a win in Junior Hockey World Cup 2016.
Indian Hockey at the moment is flourishing much like the Indian economy. They only need to keep doing what they have done in the past 4 years to take India back to the summit.