Discussion in 'Members Corner' started by Vinod2070, Feb 28, 2010.
India beat Pakistan in World cup hockey!
India beat Pakistan 4-1.
Yeah ! What a way to start !
Great start india. Chak de india.
congarts india.and fans.hEY DID SRK COACHED THEM WITH CHAKDE WORL CUP CRY.
This was just a start. We expect more. Much more!
I saw the full match, india outplayed pakistan; pakistan were clueless against india's new hockey WMD sandeep singh
^ Hey there is a copy right on that
Awesome, and good to see the whole nation tuning to Hockey this holiday weekend. I hope this brings about a resurgence in Hockey support in India.
Finally we have a great "drag flicker"!
It was great to see the two goals by Sandip Singh. As good as any by Bovalendar that we saw long back.
Congrats to Team India and all Indian fans. It was great to see a full stadium in a Hockey match. The whole stadium was singing our national anthem, that was a great site for me. I hope this world Cup will bring in a change in the fortune of Indian Hockey. I hope Indian Hockey team will keep on fighting in the remaining 4 matches of the league stage.
Chak de India.....Chak de Phatae Pakistan de.
India played brilliant hockey today. Made Pakistan look very ordinary.
Keep it going boys. Bring the Cup home.
India beat Pakistan in Hockey World Cup 2010
Here's your 'goals' video. Grainy footage, but make do for now, yeh?
Courtesy of: http://www.indiansportsblog.com/2010/02/india-beat-pakistan-in-hockey-world-cup.html
Good job India, GO INDIA GO.
This thread is dedicated to the news update and views of World Cup Hockey being played in India:
Hockey World Cup in New Delhi: Pakistan off to India
for an uphill task
By Muhammad Ali
LAHORE: An 18-member Pakistan squad, led by Zeeshan Ashraf, left here for India to participate in the 10th Hockey World Cup to be played at Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi from February 28 to March 13. Former champions Pakistan qualified for the World Cup after winning a six-team competition in France in November last year. This was the only time they had to go through qualification because of their low rankings. The other participating teams in the World Cup are Australia, Canada, England, Germany, South Korea, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, India, Argentina and New Zealand. “It is a tough test for us, but we have prepared extensively and hope that by winning the world title we will revive our hockey,” captain Zeeshan told reporters before the team’s departure. Zeeshan, a seasoned defender, said keeping the team’s recent record against India his boys were itching to take the field against the archrivals. “We have beaten India in our last three clashes in the recent past and this record will put extra pressure on them,” he added.
Relations between the nuclear-armed rivals have simmered since a November 2008 attack on the Indian financial capital Mumbai, which New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants. Security fears surfaced after a bombing last weekend at a restaurant in the western Indian city of Pune, which killed 12 people but the green shirts were cleared to travel to New Delhi after a delegation visited the Indian capital and assessed security arrangements. This will be the Pakistan hockey team’s first visit to India since 2006. Any pull-out or disruption for India would have been a major blow as it gears up to host the Commonwealth Games in October, the biggest sporting event on Indian soil since the Asian Games in 1982.
Pakistan, who won record four world titles, have performed badly in the last decade. Their last major title was in 1994 at the World Cup in Australia and they finished eighth at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, their worst-ever placing. The tournament hosts are hardly faring any better and have not won a major title since the Moscow Olympics in 1980. “We are hoping that this World Cup revives Asian glory,” said Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) general secretary and team manager Mohammad Asif Bajwa. “Pakistan and India are two important countries in Asian hockey and must do well to lift the standard.”
The Pakistan squad have two new faces in Umar Bhutta and Mohammad Rizwan who have replaced forwards Shafqat Rasool and Abbas Haider. Pakistan also boast the services of penalty corner expert Sohail Abbas, who has a world record tally of 306 goals. Bajwa said the players were heading to India as ‘ambassadors of peace.’ “Players have always been ambassadors of peace and we hope to play hockey without any fears and hope that Indo-Pak sporting ties are revived,” maintained Bajwa. Pakistan are in Group B along with Australia, England, India, South Africa and Spain. They play their first match against archrivals India on the opening day. Defending champions Germany, Argentina, New Zealand, the Netherlands, South Korea and Canada form Group A. “When Pakistan play India it always sparks interest and I hope it’s a very good match which gives a kick start to the event,” said head coach Shahid Ali Khan.
Shahid expressed confidence in the team, saying they would give other teams of the group a run for their money in the tournament. “Ours is a very balanced team. All the best available players are in it. We have some very experienced players as well as several talented youngsters and that is why I am confident that we can do well against any team.” Shahid said a lot would depend upon how the senior players of the team perform. After facing India, Pakistan play Spain on March 2, England on March 4, South Africa on March 6 and Australia on March 8.
Pakistan, winners of three Olympic gold medals and who remained up in the clouds for more than three decades, have been striving hard for a big title. They have not won any Asian title since winning the Asian Games in China 19 years ago. Pakistan have never missed a World Cup since the event’s inception in 1971 in Barcelona. Pakistan won the inaugural title and then went on to clinch three more titles in 1978 in Buenos Aires, 1982 in Mumbai and 1994 in Sydney. Pakistan have reached the World Cup final six times.
Salman Akbar and Nasir Ahmad (goalkeepers), Zeeshan Ashraf (captain), Sohail Abbas and Muhammad Imran (full-backs), Waseem Ahmad, Sajjad Anwar, Fareed Ahmad, Muhammad Irfan and Muhammad Rashid (Halve-backs), Shakeel Abbasi, Muhammad Zubair, Muhammad Zubair, Rehan Butt, Abdul Haseem Khan, Akhtar Ali, Omar Bhutta and Mohammad Rizwan (Forwards).
Pakistan hockey team satisfied with security arrangements
PTI, Feb 22, 2010, 09.57pm IST
NEW DELHI: Pakistan hockey team on Monday expressed satisfaction over the security arrangements made by the Indian authorities for the World Cup and said they have come here to spread the message of peace and bridge the divide between the two countries.
The 18-member squad arrived here around 2000 hrs IST by bus to participate in the 12-nation mega event after entering India at the Wagah border.
The players and officials were a tired lot after their 15-hour-long tedious journey which they started around 5am from Lahore but they still took out time to speak to journalists.
"We are happy with the security arrangements made for us and the World Cup. Right from the point we entered India till here at the hotel (Le Meridien), security was strict and tight," said team manager Asif Bajwa.
"We are the ambassador of peace and harmony who have come here to spread love and to play to our full potential," said Bajwa, who is also Pakistan Hockey Federation Secretary.
Striker Rehan Butt said that security was an important issue for all teams and players but they were quite satisfied with the arrangements by the Indian authorities.
On being asked about the preparation for their first match against India on February 28, Butt said that his side are up for the challenge and looking to start their campaign on a winning note.
"We had some good practice sessions in our country before coming here for the event. All boys are 100 per cent ready to give their best. Playing against India is definitely a big challenge and we are up for it. We will put our best foot forward against all the teams and play with positive mindset," said Butt.
Forward Shakeel Abbasi said that Pakistan were a lot stronger this time and would look for a good performance.
"We are a good team and looking forward for an exciting tournament. We have come here early to get acclimatise to the conditions. That's why we chose the bus route. Earlier we were supposed to come by flight on Feb 25th," he said.
Penalty corner specialist Sohail Abbas, however, refused to speak to the media and said all questions should be asked to Bajwa as he has been officially designated to answer all queries.
"Ask Mr Bajwa. He will answer your queries. We are not supposed to speak," said Abbas.
India-Pakistan match, encounter of an emotional kind
IANS, Feb 22, 2010, 06.29pm IST
NEW DELHI: India could not have asked for a tougher start to their campaign in the 12th men's Hockey World Cup this coming on Sunday. Up first are Pakistan on the opening day of the fortnight-long extravaganza, followed by a face-off with Australia 48 hours later.
The two matches carry a lot of significance, not just in the context of India's fate in the tournament but the profile of the sport in the country.
The recent shenanigans over payments, captaincy and the charity game in Chandigarh have been avoidable distractions on the lead up to and preparations for the World Cup. In a way, history seems to have repeated.
In the past, India's run-up to this quadrennial event has been marked by controversies almost every single time by way of disputes over selections, captaincy or such issues that the country's short-sighted administrators failed to foresee, much less solve to everyone's satisfaction.
This time around, India would be going in blind, as it were, without the benefit of playing any top-level international matches in the past year. As such, coach Jose Brasa's theories, strategies, permutations and combinations, remain largely untested. The fear is that these factors could well influence India's showing.
India's game against Pakistan on the opening night will no doubt generate passion and emotion largely influenced by the political relationship between the neighbouring nations. The scenario today is not much different from when the teams met at this very venue in the 1982 Asian Games final that Pakistan won 7-1.
Although the two sides have played each other many times since then on either side of the border, the stakes have never been as high as they are now. In the event, the pressure will be on both teams whose character, unity and mental strength will be put to the test.
Man-to-man, there is not much to separate the two, but one suspects that penalty corner and set-piece play could influence the outcome. Pakistan have an ace in the world's premier drag-flicker Sohail Abbas while India have three penalty corner specialists including Sandeep Singh. But India's best bet would be to strike early and hard through field goals, and more important, sustain the momentum through the 70 minutes.
It needs no super coach to point out that Pakistan's weakest link is their deep defence and that could well be the key India could turn to open the door to success. But then, historically, Indian teams have been a 65-minute outfit that flagged and fumbled in the dying moments to concede goals that turned a possible victory into defeat.
Much of India's hopes hinge on the players' ability to stand up to the pressure and of course, their fitness level that remains a question mark in the absence of quality international matches in recent weeks.
Pakistan enjoy a decidedly superior World Cup record having won the tournament four times, the last being in 1994. In comparison, India's only Cup triumph was in 1975 after which they have finished in the 5-8 positions only twice - 1982 and 1994. They ended 12th in 1986 and only marginally better in 2002 (10th) and 2006 (11th).
The two teams are meeting in the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Pakistan in World Cup (11 appearances):
Winners in 1971, 1978, 1982, 1994; second in 1975, 1990; fourth in 1973; fifth in 1998, 2002; sixth in 2006; 11th in 1986.
India in World Cup (11 appearances):
Winners in 1975; 3rd in 1971; 2nd in 1973; sixth in 1978; fifth in 1982, 1994; 12th in 1986; 10th in 1990, 2002; ninth in 1998, 11th in 2006.
FIH Hockey WC: India go top after a thumping victory over Pakistan
Tougher challenges ahead for India: Former players
IANS, Mar 1, 2010, 06.10pm IST
NEW DELHI: Former Indian hockey stars were lavish in their praise of the hosts' emphatic 4-1 win over Pakistan in the Hockey World Cup, but felt the boys need to be cautious as tougher challenges lie ahead.
Ashok Kumar, a member of the 1975 World Cup wining team, said the Indians were adept in the midfield and the defence Sunday night as they outplayed their sub-continental rivals in the Pool B game at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.
"They did not allow Pakistan to attack. They got their basics right," said Ashok, son of hockey legend Dhyan Chand after whom the national stadium is named.
Ashok said Bharat Chikara and Dhananjay Mahadik were excellent in stopping the Pakistani forwards, while Vikram Pillay moved all around the ground.
"They helped each other. The Indian players have shown good team spirit and it is a positive sign," Ashok said.
Noting that the hosts had the maximum ball possession, he said: "We cleared it fast."
Ashok also had good words for Sandeep Singh for being excellent with his flicks. Sandeep scored two goals from penalty corners.
Asked about India's game against Australia Tuesday, he said: "We expect our players to play the way they did against Pakistan. Australia is a good team but they were not up to the mark against England. We will know about the strength of this Australian side after Tuesday's match."
However, Ashok cautioned against complacency. "There are bigger challenges ahead and we should be on guard. For reaching the semifinals, India should eye a win against England."
Zafer Iqbal, who played a stellar role in India's last Olympics gold medal triumph in 1980, said the home side looked fit as a fiddle. "This was an area where the Pakistanis were found wanting."
"We have had a good beginning. We played a very attacking game yesterday (Sunday). But against Australia, we have to be very careful. They are a very strong team. We can't let the Australians play freely. They have many scorers."
Zaffer said the Indians have to be particularly alert in the first 20 minutes when the Aussies are known to be most dangerous. "We should not allow them to score during this time."
Zaffer said after being shocked 2-3 by England, the Australians are bound to come back hard against the Indians Tuesday.
"We should remember yesterday's game is now history. This group is tough. We should strive for a win, though we need to be cautious at the same time," he added.
Hockey World Cup:Resillient NZ pip gritty Canada 3-2
STAFF WRITER 18:15 HRS IST
Philem Dipak Singh
New Delhi, Mar 1 (PTI) A resilient New Zealand twice came back from behind to beat a fighting Canada 3-2 in a Pool A opening match of the hockey World Cup here today.
The Black Sticks, who were trailing 1-2 at the breather, made a strong comeback in the second session to start their World Cup campaign on a winning note.
Indian-origin player Priyesh Bhana (11th minute), Nicholas Haig (47th) and veteran play maker Ryan Archibald (67th) scored for New Zealand.
For Canada, who were dominant till midway of the opening session, Mark Pearson (2nd minute) and Philip Wright (20th) found the target.
Even as the hundred-odd spectators barely settled down, Pearson sounded the board with a fine field goal in the second minute following a scramble inside the striking circle.
New hockey laws ended India's rule
Errol D'Cruz, TOI Crest, Feb 27, 2010, 09.14am IST
As the country waits for the World Cup to begin, TOI-Crest traces the fall of Indian hockey from its exalted position. Ironically, it's not so much a decline in playing standards as in the slow dismantling of the game as we knew it that has pushed us to the bottom.
In sport, the basic rules are simple: two teams, or two individuals, pit their skill, guile and temperament against each other; at the end of the contest, one of them emerges victorious while the other goes home with a long face.
The Indian hockey team - once an indomitable force - has suffered a rare predicament though: it has slowly but surely lost to the game itself. As the sport evolved, changing itself to woo the modern world, India stayed rooted in its past and is still paying the price.
Ironically, the slide began when it was right at its peak: In 1975, at Kuala Lumpur. The world was literally at its feet; but it didn't notice, in the euphoria of the World Cup triumph, that the earth was beginning to shift beneath. And rapidly too.
In fact, a year later, the earth itself was replaced by plastic; not too surprisingly, at the Montreal Olympics the very next year, the seven-time gold medalists finished seventh. It was the beginning of the end. The debacle caused a domino effect, at the end of which India finds itself an also-ran in the world order.
But it could all have been very different.
Administrative lethargy (or was it arrogance?) saw the team pulling out of a pre-Olympic tournament a year before the Montreal Games. The objective of the meet: Enable potential Olympic qualifiers to get a feel of the revolutionary surface; incidentally, FIH President Rene Frank came up with the astro-turf idea as worried Games organizers found it difficult to prepare a proper grass pitch in the wake of a severe Canadian winter.
Surjit Singh, a hero of the Kuala Lumpur triumph, was later to liken the entire experience to "playing on hot sand."
It was clear then, that synthetic pitches actually produce a whole new game, warranting a whole new approach and a whole new apparel too.
So in came dress and equipment to match - the good old mulberry shaft slowly gave way to graphite and fiberglass sticks; the goalkeepers donned a Star Wars look - helmet, smock, specialized kickers and lightweight pads.
New-look hockey acquiesced to the demands of modern sport: Speed, stamina and strength replaced sublime skill, and, protective gear such as gum guards and face masks for field players too made their appearance.
The ball changed from the good old seamed leather to a spheroid made of a mixture of rubber and plastic, dimpled to reduce considerably higher velocities than witnessed on natural grass.
For the sleight-of-hand artistes, the new era held ominous forebodings.
But unlike Pakistan, the other Asian exponent, we chose to see 'sinister plots' to neutralize us; our neighbours, though, tempered the game to suit modern trends, with a degree of aplomb.
Interestingly, the saga of changes had started in 1971 itself, during the Barcelona World Cup: the offside rule had been chopped from three players to two; the penalty stroke distance had been reduced from eight yards to seven and the 'sticks' rule (prohibiting players from raising their stick over the shoulder) was also slowly relaxed.
The penalty corner, the object of manifold changes, also reduced defenders from six to five in an attempt to increase goal-scoring. We just couldn't handle all of this.
When the World Cup came to India in 1982, a new set of changes too came along. The hit-in replaced the push-in , the sacred bully-off was abolished and as the Mumbai tournament took place on grass - the last major one on natural surface - one could note that the game was changing its spots at a frenetic pace.
For all our discomfort of playing on plastic, Team India seemed to come to terms with the new order in the early 1980s. The Moscow Olympic gold, admittedly in a denuded field, portrayed us as a quick counter-attacking team. A first ever Champions Trophy medal in 1982 at Amstelveen - a bronze - and second position at the Esanda Invitation tournament in Melbourne later in the year, augured well for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The team even entered as a favourite. In September 1982, however, the next radical change was effected: the outlawing of the hand-stop during the penalty corner. For once, though, the change appeared to suit India. After all, we were novices in the set-piece relative to such sledgehammers as Dutchmen Paul Litjens and Ties Kruize. But, if we lacked strength and stamina for modern hockey, we also exhibited a woeful lack of enterprise. The PC devoid of the hand-stop demanded, at least for starters, the use of smart variations - something we have never come close to excelling at.
Still, the return of Balkishen Singh as coach after nearly 15 years, brought in a refreshing change. He dismantled the archaic pyramid (that used five forwards) and went for a 4-4-2 formation with good results in the run-up to the Los Angeles Games. Like in the Mumbai World Cup, the team failed by a whisker to make the semifinals; it eventually finished fifth but hopes of rekindling the spark of old disappeared at the next World Cup. It's ironical that the worst chapter in Indian hockey was written when we were still in with a chance to excel. The 1986 World Cup in Willesden, England, saw India finish rock bottom, literally and figuratively, after we were left holding the wooden spoon at 12th. Pakistan, who didn't do too much better at No. 11, however, showed that their predicament was only temporary bouncing back to runners-up at their own World Cup in Lahore four years later.
India, on their part, crashed to a lowly 10th, after showing promise at the 1988 Seoul Olympic and sparkled yet again to flatter and deceive at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics; Balkishen, who had returned yet again, saw his innovative tactics that succeeded on the European tour fail to work magic at the Games. Post-Barcelona , the rule-makers who kept the pot boiling nicely, were about to alter hockey forever with two more radical changes - the rolling substitution rule to place the emphasis on skill rather than stamina and the modified obstruction rule that allowed restricted turning by a player in possession of the ball. The goal: a more flowing game. We have failed abjectly, to work either to our advantage, even though the changes seemed to favour us. Instead, we've found ourselves backpedalling to contain rampaging Australia, Germany and the Netherlands - even in hot, humid conditions - thanks to a relentless surge of substitutes. Meanwhile, a change to rein in the one-man demolition squads, the penalty corner specialists, boomeranged on the rule-makers.
They first induced goalkeepers to stay on their feet, instead of going down prostrate to block shots (the 18-inch high backboards indicating the permissible height of the direct hit at goal); then, in the hope of diluting the potency of the penalty corner, they stipulated that the ball be halted out of the circle after it's injected into play.
Together, the two rules gave birth to the drag flick after the 1992 Barcelona Olympics; and in its wake, came the assassins Floris Jan Bovelander and Taco van den Honert, Dutchmen both.
While Pakistan produced the greatest, in the person of Sohail Abbas, India had to wait till the new millennium for a full-time drag-flicker - Jugraj Singh.
Cedric D'Souza , the best thinking coach we've had, inspired an upsurge in fortunes at the 1994 World Cup in Sydney. Fifth position, not thought of very highly in days gone by, was relished by India. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, two quirks - a defeat by old nemesis Argentina in the opening match and quirky umpiring in the drawn game against Germany - led to a worst ever eighth place at the Games. Cedric though had come closest to replicating the methods used by the West.
He emphasized the need to use individual skills only beyond the attacking '25' and stressed the need to part with the ball (the failure of which is our perennial malady) and had the perfect models in the iconic Dhanraj Pillay and the savvy Jude Felix.
His methods were greeted with disdain by a system resistant to change. Sadly, Cedric faded into oblivion about the time hockey was poised for its most profound change ever.
Offside, partially abolished in 1987, was banished forever immediately after the 1996 Olympics. If artificial turf brought in a rash of changes to the game, this change transformed the game even more.
Gone was the creative midfield and the steady build up in attack. Also gone was the through ball and the chase down the middle. In came the poachers and deflections into goal.
Defenders, they joke, need eyes at the back of the head as marauders steal their way well beyond enemy lines, ready to make the kill. Elsewhere on the pitch, the crunch to buy and deny space and the ability to retackle after losing possession has placed the onus on concentration and focus for all of 70 minutes.
The aspect of retaining focus has seen us in poor light and a long and dismaying history of letting in late goals, commencing from conceding an equalizer against Poland - and a place in the semifinals in the 2000 Sydney Olympics - continues unabated.
After the rule changes quietened for a while, the quaint self pass (an option at the free hit when a player gets on with the game without passing) came into being late last year. Still in its infancy, it promises to promote skill which Indians supposedly possess in copious quantity.
The kill, though, has been long in coming... and is still awaited. Or maybe, we will see some changes that will allow India to smile again, if not regain lost glory.
HOCKEY'S CLIMATE CHANGE
THE NO OFF-SIDE RULE (1996)
With no restriction on movement of players, the game changed radically. It has meant more goals, fewer stoppages and a reduced burden on the umpires. A less creative midfield is the flip side.
NO HAND-STOP IN PENALTY CORNERS (1982)
The objective was to make penalty corners less lethal. It hasn't happened but at least new variations have emerged. India haven't learnt any new trick.
PAVING WAY FOR DRAG FLICK (1992)
Under the new rule, the PC ball had to be stopped outside the circle. The hitter got around this 'disadvantage' by dragging and flicking the ball goalwards.
ROLLING SUBSTITUTION (1992)
Aiming to place emphasis on skill and reduce the focus on fitness, the rolling substitution has been a popular change manifesting itself in a relentless pace of play.
MODIFIED OBSTRUCTION RULE (1992)
The player was now allowed to shield the ball from the opponent. The only catch was that he had to be on the move. There were fears that it would lead to dangerous play but it eventually made the sport cleaner and significantly reduced stoppages too
PARTIAL NO OFF-SIDE RULE (1987)
Players could be off-side up to the 25-yard line but not beyond. Met with partial success and encouraged views to abolish it altogether.
PERMITTING THE HIT-IN FROM SIDELINES (1981)
Made the push-in less stringent and gave players the option to hit the ball into play. It sped up the game and made hit-ins deep into the attacking half more penetrative than the push-in .
SELF-PASS AS OPTION TO FREE-HIT (2009)
An option to the free-hit that allows a player to resume play without passing to a teammate with plenty of creative options as the player is free to dribble the ball before deciding on his next action. This new rule could benefit India.
END TO THE BULLY-OFF AT START (1981)
The demise of the romantic start to a hockey match surprisingly didn't evoke too much mourning. The centre-pass (akin to the kick-off in football) now starts a game. However, a scaled-down bully-off (one tap on the opponent's stick before attempting to gain possession) makes a very rare appearance for some infringements.
PENALTY STROKE: FROM 8 YARDS TO 7 (1975)
The main objective was to produce more goals. But it also ensured that fouls in the D were greatly reduced.
It was clear then, that synthetic pitches actually produce a whole new game, warranting a whole new approach and a whole new apparel too
New-look hockey acquiesced to the demands of modern sport: Speed, stamina and strength replaced sublime skill
While we chose to see 'sinister plots' to neutralize us, Pakistan tempered the game to suit modern trends
Can India give its national sport a new lease of life?
V Narayan Swamy, TOI Crest, Feb 27, 2010, 09.19am IST
Indian hockey's moment of reckoning has arrived. As a million eyes watch, and hopefully many more hearts beat, we will know soon if the game will turn a corner or not.
The World Cup at home is, in many ways, its home stretch, and what the national team can achieve here depends entirely on what chief coach Jose Brasa has done in the camp until now.
Has the Spaniard finally actually gotten his team to believe that it can counter the force of the Europeans and the Australians? Has he worked on the frailties that show up in every competition? The answers will be known over the next fortnight - a forbiddingly short time to undo the lapses of a long, painful past. But then that's how quickly the ball rolls.
Call it seasoned skepticism, but you cannot escape the feeling that India and Brasa wouldn't have been able to work out a comprehensive, foolproof strategy to dominate teams or force them on the backfoot, taking it step by step, first in the league and thereafter.
The reason is simple. For the cobwebridden idea of Indian hockey, eight months is too short a time to dust off the rot. In this time, Brasa would have discovered, much to his misfortune, that Indian hockey is not instant coffee. Working on new ideas, and customizing it to suit the Indian style of play, doesn't happen overnight. In our national sport today, eight months is shorter than overnight.
But it is wrong too to write off anything that the accommodating Spaniard may have tried to inculcate in the host team. The World Cup is here, after all, despite all the troubles and that enough is hope-inducing.
Brasa has worked hard to fine-tune the basics. It has not gone down well with the players, but he has been adamant in his approach. He felt it was necessary to instill in them the modern-day sporting adage that they are allrounders - attackers when the ball is in their possession and defenders otherwise who will have to fight to regain possession of the ball. The idea of division of labour in a compact sport like hockey is long passé.
There are other technicalities that have emerged. The chief coach has identified rolling substitution as an area that needs ironing out. Meant as a strategic ploy, and used effectively by most teams, India has employed it in bumbling fashion, almost as a formality. Much like his European counterparts, Brasa wants the rolling substitutions to be a lot smoother and unrelenting. Among other things, it would help the players conserve energy.
Brasa must have most certainly identified the last few minutes of the game as the traditional problem area for India. Hence a great deal of mental conditioning to weather difficult situations, where India tend to falter, would have been the order of the day at the camp. The coach would have used that to sharpen their edge.
But even here, the problem of time crops up. Simply, team strategies and player roles take time to evolve. For instance, the process of mental condition may only work to an extent. At best, it may see the players hold their own and play well within themselves, but it may not give them the power to dictate terms.
Combination tactics aren't easy to master and take months of planning and practice. For example, in the early '90s, the way central midfielder Jude Felix combined with Mukesh Kumar and Dhanraj Pillay was a result of years of combined training.
Sadly, there hasn't been much to cheer on this front for India in the recent past and with Brasa's philosophy of reassigned roles, it remains to be seen how well the players have adapted to their new avatars.
One look at team composition shows that goalkeeping and defence appear to be the weakest links. It's either Adrian D'Souza or no one under the bar. His possible replacement P Sreejesh comes across as being too impetuous to fit on the international stage.
Post Dilip Tirkey, the defence has shown signs of crumbling under pressure - the rout by Pakistan in the Champions Challenge last year is a prime example. India were hammered 6-3 in the semifinal clash where the defence awarded Rehan Butt and his Pakistanis scoring opportunities by the dozen by way of needless errors and space. It was the performance of a greenhorn backline, one that seemed overawed by the needle clash.
But it's a new scenario now and those who can actually be the saving grace are the midfielders and linkmen - the midfielder turned defender turned midfielder Sardara Singh, veteran Vikram Pillay and playmaker Arjun Halappa. While India still lack a central midfielder like Felix and have quite forgotten their traditional strength of the through pass, they still do a good job of transferring the ball effectively in the midfield. The trouble, perhaps, lies after the 23-metre line when making most of the good counts.
The battle-scarred Singhs - Shivendra, Prabhjot and Rajpal - will have to showcase their skills well if they have to get past tight defences. Defensively, Australia and Spain give away little but the Indians' inherent stick skills can work the magic, by either fetching a goal or a penalty corner.
If it is the latter, then India suddenly have a problem of plenty. Sandeep Singh is one of the most feared drag-flickers in the world. Dhananjay Mahadik is emerging as a potent force while young Diwakar Ram can prove quite a handful too. Traditionally never our strong point, perhaps, this is one strength now that India could look to exploit. But for that, they need to outsmart their opponents each time they enter the circle.
Compared to the 1994 World Cup team, which too was emerging from a crisis following the surprising debacle of the Barcelona Olympics of 1992, the current Indian team now lacks a good leader. The recent captaincy issue hasn't augured well. The strike over payments in January and the money that has flowed in, may just have a positive spin-off with the team coming together, but the boys need to rally round the same captain (Rajpal) who they had sidelined for a while during the revolt.
Even that may not be too difficult a task. In fact, the boys can do well should they rely more on teamwork and collective decisions than depend on a leader. It would be just as well if Rajpal followed the team for a change.
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