IT is only after the Xth Asian Games at Seoul and later the World Cup Hockey Tournament at London that there has been a spate of criticism from several quarters about the poor performance of our hockey team in the international competitions.
Before the departure of the team for Seoul there was nothing but praise from the team manager, coaches and) other officials who had expressed great satisfaction on the training of the team and selection of the team and had pronounced that the present set of boys will not win the Asian championship but also get a top ranking in the World Cup.
However, everything went so wrong that we had to be satisfied with a bronze in the Asiad and were relegated to the last position in the 12nation hockey competition at London.
As usual the IHF President, team manager, coaches and everyone else who is someone in the organization came out with one excuse or the other to justify their stand.
In fact from th time of the Rome Olympics in 1960, when we lost the final against Pakistan, there has been only a few occasion when our achievements have been worth recording. We won the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, 1968 Jakarta Asian Games, 1976 World Cup at Kuala Lumpur and the 1980 six nation hockey tournament at the Moscow Olympiad where many strong teams didn’t participate owing to the boycott by USA and other European countries.
Everything said and done the debacles at Seoul and London will go down deep in the annals of the history of Indian hockey. This had led to the thinking that henceforth it will be the preserve of the Europeans or Australians and not of the Indian Subcontinent.
However, one must not lose heart and take a pessimistic view of the present situation. We have to be more pragmatic and realistic in our approach to improve the standard of hockey in our country.
If South Korea could do it in two years’ time why we can’t with a tradition of the past 60 years as a hockey playing nation, do it for the forthcoming Olympics and World Cups.
The training and coaching should start at the age of 12 or 13 and hockey should be made a compulsory game in schools. Talented boys and girls could be selected at district and state levels and coaching should be imparted with scientifically worked out schedules to develop their skill. Each state should acquire an Astor Turf and selected players should get enough opportunity to practice and play competitive hockey. Needless to say that the young players be provided with nourishing food and given scholarships to pursue their academics.
Besides the government public sectors and business houses should come forward to patronize the game by extending financial assistance and providing employment to the deserving and upcoming sportsmen. One way to popularizes hockey is to give the game a professional character. Cricket has become popular only because the players are handsomely paid and many play throughout the year as professionals.
Time and again we read that the training of our team had been inadequate, final selection is done at the last moment before the departure of the team, coaches and managers are often changed sometimes over very flimsy grounds. No one is entrusted with full responsibility of the team’s performance and as such every individual in the Set up puts the blame on the other.
Our players need to have perfect physical fitness and think of playing constructive, rather than artistic hockey which is the need of the hour. Too much of dribbling. tires out a player and gives chance to the opponents to plan their strategy for defense.
The stereo type taking of penalty comers cost us heavily as we failed to convert them in goals.
Our finishing inside the D has. always been a weak point. On many occasions our forwards fumbled to push the ball in the open net. We must improve our striking ability by taking a first time shot leaving no chance to the goalkeeper to stop the ball, for the ultimate success depends on scoring goals and not on artistic midfield display.
Our failure in the recent international encounters was mainly due to the lack of stamina, poor coordination among the team and the psychological fear created by the robust teams in the minds of our tired and shaky players.
Uur coaching programme should be properly scheduled. The coach should have a full time assignment for at least a year and he should spend maximum time with the team which will enable him to establish a proper rapport and good understanding with the trainees.
Another important factor for the success of the team is to possess a sense of national pride and a spirit to win and fight ill the last moment. The players should be free from mental worries and anxiety. There should not be any tension and strain which are due to lack of understanding among officials and the players. Free and frank discussions are always useful in planning out strategies for every match.
Article extracted from this publication >> May 8, 1987