bronze boost

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 12 Dec 2017 12:05:38

THEY really played well in the World Hockey League (HWL) and came close to winning in critical matches. Yet, the Indian hockey team did not have the wherewithal to complete their moves to the goal-post and score finally. They possessed the ball for longer, they dominated the field better. Yet, the other teams proved smarter by picking up even small gaps in the Indian domination to score goals which the Indians could not stop. Yet, the team fought on hard to win the bronze medal in the prestigious tournament and retain their honour. This tournament must teach the Indians a lot of good lessons, provided they have the capacity to learn.

There is other good news, too, on the hockey front, that the Government will give complete funding to Hockey India (HI) for its future activities. The Indian hockey circles will welcome this announcement by Mr. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Sports Minister. For as Hockey India starts getting ready for a triple-major -- Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, and World Cup -- it will require a lot of money, and the fact that the Government will give those funds will be a great booster to the activity. There is every reason to believe that there would be no shortcoming at least on the funds part.

Much will depend now on how Hockey India takes up the challenge. Time and again in the past ten years, the Indian hockey team has shown that it has potential to be a truly champion team. Despite all that demonstration of prowess, the Indian team is known to have failed at the finish line. This was evidenced even at the Hockey World League as well. Obviously, there is something still missing in the preparedness, something that the team has not been able to diagnose and set right.

Many experiments and efforts have gone into rectifying that something over time, but only to little avail. Physical fitness was named one of the causes, and mandarins of Indian hockey tried to take care of that element as well. Then came the point of the players’ ability to run in bent position of 45 degrees for seventy minutes of play controlling the ball. The coaches tried to address that as well. Then came to fore the question of evolving strategies for successful finish. And it is at this point that successive Indian combinations seem to have got stuck.

It is this point that would need much attention in the next few months as a national need. Masters of Indian hockey, not just the organisers and coaches but also the master-players of the past, need to come together as a national project and prepare the team with the best of strategies of training and playing. With the Government funds flowing in, there should be no problem with resources. What is now needed to be done is to ensure that we do not lack in efforts.

The Indian hockey team has three calls to take successively. It must not just pass the muster but do so with flying colours. The Hockey World League has given the team some chance to celebrate but a lot of reasons to ponder over -- so that it can rectify its shortcomings and consolidate its strengths. Modern hockey is a different ball game altogether. The play has to be based on a lot of technicalities that technology has ushered in. The players will have to be trained accordingly. What is most critical is inculcation of a fine combination of the old grit and new gusto coupled with a clinically correct approach -- not just to playing but also to strategy and tactics.

True, this is a tough challenge, but the Indian team will have to meet it squarely and with aplomb. Now that the Government is funding the whole thing, there should be no shortcoming in the efforts. India was a world beater team for long decades. Now is the time to reclaim that glory once again.