Sultan Azlan Shah - 5 takeaways from India-Korea encounter

Hero Hockey World league 2013 Rupinder Pal Singh of India in action against Ireland during the match at Delhi on 21st Feb 2013 (1)

With Gurjinder on the bench, Rupinder Pal Singh’s (in pic above) failure to convert PCs becomes a more glaring error in team strategy.

India suffered second straight defeat in Sultan Azlan Shah Cup after losing to Korea 2-1 in the game played today despite dominating the match for majority of the time. Here are the five things I learnt from the game played today:

Indian attack is a new headache for Michael Nobbs

Former Indian coaches used to face the problem of porous Indian defence and spent all the time in solving that problem with no success. Michael Nobbs came and nearly solved the problem by finding a couple of good defenders but now Michael Nobbs is facing another problem, this time with Indian attack. Just like World Hockey League, the performance of forward-line was disappointing and no one except Mandeep Singh was able to have some effect on the game. In the first half of the tournament, India had no shots on the goal and in the second half, there were not more than 5 attacks on the Korean goal. Right from Dhyan Chand to Shivendra Singh, Indian hockey was blessed with great attacking players but the current lot are nowhere near them in terms of talent. Just like he sorted out the problem of weak defence, Michael Nobbs will have to find a solution to India’s attacking problems.

Gurjinder Singh needs more playing time

Against Korea, India won four penalty corners and India’s first choice of PC expert Rupinder Pal Singh wasted all the penalty corners earned. While Rupinder was missing penalty corners, Gurjinder Singh on the bench was waiting for his turn to have a go on the Korean defence, but during the entire game didn’t get any chance to showcase his penalty corner skills. He was kept waiting on the bench and got very little playing time. And when the match was out of India’s hand, Gurjinder was sent on the field to play. Gurjinder Singh was top goal scorer of World Series Hockey and was also adjudged the best player of the tournament. Benching the player of such calibre does not make any sense. He was given very less playing time in World Hockey League and it has been same case in Azlan Shah. Is he the victim of hockey politics between IHF-HI despite doing well?

Harbir Singh is already running out of time

Absence of Raghunath in the tournament had given an opportunity to young Harbir Singh to stake his claim in the squad but his performance so far has been a big disappointment. Against Korea today, he was erratic and made many mistakes. He also conceded three penalty corners in the early first half which allowed Korea to take a lead. Many would say, he is young and must be given time to prove himself, but making mistakes like that would not help him stay in the team. He still has few matches to play in the tournament but it’s time for him to make an overnight improvement in his game to be able to keep his place in the team.

Mandeep is the star of Indian team

India’s teenage sensation Mandeep Singh has improved with every game played so far for India and today against Korea too he was a treat to watch. He was the only player of the squad who was actually trying to create chances to score. He, along with Manpreet Singh and Malek Singh created the first goal for India and constantly kept on working out a way to score another goal. Despite him not being on the score sheet, he has it in him to go on to become one of the best players in the world.

Sreejesh is indispensable

Field Hockey Practice

P.R. Sreejesh

The way he has been performing for the squad, there is no other keeper in India who can threaten his numero uno status. Since his debut, he has been a regular in the Indian team and no Indian squad is complete without him. Today against Korea, he was once again standing like a wall and thwarting off Korean attacks on his goal. He was brilliant during penalty corners and if not for him, India would have conceded 3-4 goals in the first half of the game itself. He did concede two goals against Korea today but those goals were none of his fault. Sreejesh today is very important for the team, and keeping him away for the squad is going to be a big blunder.

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