From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.13 :: Mar. 28, 2009

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HOCKEY

Let’s be practical and sensible

If the performances of the seniors are as positive as they have been made out to be, then the expectation of a trophy triumph in the Azlan Shah tournament in April is not unjustified. At the same time, the showing of the juniors has been impressive.But everything depends on how these youngsters shape up before the important assignment — the Junior World Cup being hosted jointly by Singapore and Malaysia in June. An analysis by S. Thyagarajan.

AKHILESH KUMAR

Seniors such as Sandeep Singh, Prabhjot Singh and Shivendra Singh have served India well.

Pragmatism dictates the need to administer a word of caution. The reasonably notable performances both by the seniors and juniors in recent months should not be allowed to develop into a contrived euphoria. True, attempts are being made to project the showing in Argentina, Jalandhar, New Zealand and Johor Bahru as though there has been a turnaround in the fortunes of Indian hockey. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

This is not to undervalue what has been achieved by players like Sandeep Singh for the seniors and Diwakar Ram for the juniors. The mood of well-being must be tempered by the realism that the ground to be recovered is long and arduous. The complexities obtaining in the system, what with an ad hoc committee calling the shots, cannot be underestimated.

For the seniors, the dilemma over having a coach — Indian or foreign — continues. If results are the yardstick, then Harendra’s role deserves to be highlighted, even though his stereotype reasoning for failures contains an element of ennui.

The Ministry’s move to hire a coach from Spain at this point of time is likely to spawn fresh areas of disagreement among the administration, the government and the players. The whole exercise needs to be fine-tuned to make the players accept that Jose Brasa is indeed the best coach for them to breach the plateau.

Though victories were recorded by the senior teams in Argentina, in the four-nation at Jalandhar and in the series in New Zealand, the matches pinpointed again the known areas of frailty; and the coaches are not tired of parroting them as though they are maladies beyond cure. In Argentina, the team won two Tests, but lost the next two.

In the four-nation tourney, which featured strong teams like Germany and the Netherlands, the final hurdle against the Dutch proved formidable. The 2-0 series victory in New Zealand was a morale booster. But the bugbears continue to be the inconsistency in the conversion of penalty corners, missing sitters in the circle and the general drying up of energy in the final minutes.

The same holds good for the juniors, who lost the four-nation tourney at Johor Bahru. Having conquered Pakistan 3-1 in the first meeting, the juniors flunked, conceding a golden goal in the final to take the second spot. Coach Bansal’s lament that the team lacked a video analyst sounds like a lame excuse.

Heartening, however, has been the maturity displayed by the senior team. The decision to lean back on the seniors to pick up the threads was a welcome move. Stars like Dilip Tirkey, Vikram Pillay, Shivendra Singh, Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh proved their mettle as did the new skipper Sandeep Singh who was instrumental in sealing off the series against New Zealand.

At the same time one cannot lose sight of the impressive showing of the juniors headed by penalty striker, Diwakar Ram. Others like Antil and B. Horo have come in for praise for their latent talent, but everything depends on how these youngsters shape up before the important assignment — the Junior World Cup being hosted jointly by Singapore and Malaysia in June.

If the performances of the seniors are as positive as they have been made out to be by conscious media projection, then the expectation of a trophy triumph at Ipoh in the Azlan Shah tournament in April is not unjustified.

Sandeep Singh and company will answer the national sentiment better by finishing on top of the podium. This will also confirm that the matches played in the last few months have really helped the team to regain a semblance of its image after that trauma in the Santiago Olympic qualifier.



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