Yet again another lost hockey generation
Now that a relatively junior Indian cricket team has done well in an international tournament, all Indian hockey fans will wonder when they will see even a fraction of that kind of success in their favourite sport. The long-suffering Indian fans do not want too much; just a smidgeon of good news.
It also gives us a good opportunity to take stock of the situation that is Indian hockey, and maybe learn some lessons from the cricket success now that Hockey India has firmed up its complete control of hockey in India and its commercial arm, the Hockey India World League. Another positive development is that they now have a high-performance director in Roelant Oltmans, chief coach Michael Nobbs has had two years under his belt and the Indian men’s national team has an additional coach in Maharaj Kaushik.
Also on the horizon, very shortly, is another make or break situation, i.e., the Asia Cup, and its consequence – qualification for the World Cup. We’ve been through one ignominy of not making it to one Olympics; is not making it to a World Cup also around the corner!
In the lead up to the next big dance and a follow-up of the previous disaster, published below are comments taken from the hockey section of The Times of India, with appropriate side comments to put things in perspective.
“As a team, we lack consistency”, says dejected Sardar. These statements when taken together are an oxymoron, proving that a stellar player like our Indian hockey captain can also exhibit the same lack of consistency in his statements that he laments about in his team members. It behooves him to refrain from making such public statements.
Plus, are you really confident that you can beat Malaysia (not done since quite a few years), Pakistan, South Korea (nearly never) and even Japan, when you could not beat even a second-tier nation like Ireland? Even China will not make it easy.
Add to this inconsistency the defense being perennially leaky, the PC battery chronically misfiring, and comment after comment from players modern and old indicating the lack of basics of hockey in the team members, including trapping, passing, leaving gaps, poor marking, etc., and we seemingly have a recipe for disaster.
“India need to compete against top teams regularly”: Oltmans — So playing against the world’s best in the Hockey India World Hockey League is not enough; playing an Olympics and coming a miserable 12th is not sufficient experience. A preparatory European tour prior to these qualifiers was inadequate. Having extended camps, including incessant playing against each other, however monotonous (nauseatingly knowing each other’s moves and tactics) is not considered adequate preparation.
So how much is enough? Continuous tours without a break? How much expenditure for a poor country like ours is adequate to ensure a decent showing? A hundred million dollars? And when does the country ask for a return on their investment? Is 45 years long enough or do these guys need many more years still?