Source: The Hitavada      Date: 31 Dec 2018 12:37:28

INDIAN men’s hockey team faces the familiar situation -- qualifying for the Tokyo Olympic Games scheduled in 2020. The quarter-final exit from the World Cup a few weeks ago has made the team start from the scratch for a place in the all-important Olympic Games. Had the team retained its Asian Games, which it had won in 2014, it would have ensured an easy passage to the mega event in Tokyo. But that was not to be. A struggle is on hand to be among the elites of international hockey. 

The record of the team of the year gone by is rather disappointing, as Captain Manpreet Singh admits. But it was in fact a pathetic show all through the year. The team finished 4th in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, had to remain satisfied with a bronze medal in Asian Games. More disappointing was the exit from the World Cup in Bhubaneswar when the team went down fighting to Netherlands in the quarter-final. All these reverses for the team have been quite a set-back not only for qualifying for the forthcoming Tokyo Games but also its standing in world hockey. Before all these important events the Indian hockey team had raised high hopes and it appeared to be getting to the forefront of international hockey. However, all these reverses have once again put a damper.

Captain Manpreet Singh says that these were very disappointing results. But the team has to move on. He says that there are always lessons to be learnt from every result. Had this been the case, the team would not have suffered reverses one after the other and relegated to lower ranking internationally with each disappointing performance. Manpreet’s assertion that the team plays each tournament regardless of the result. That should certainly not be the case.

Every team enters the field with the intention to win and to achieve that goal gives out every ounce of energy. It is not that the players in the Indian team do not give every bit of their energy or lack in commitment. There is no dearth of motivation either. But there is something that goes amiss in match condition. Is this a psychological barrier? Experts need to find out as to what goes wrong when it matters most for the team to defend its citadel. There have been innumerable occasions when the Indian team was seen losing momentum at the fag-end of a game and allow the rival team to gain ascendance. This tendency has been the bane of the Indian team for a very long time. But no coach has been able to deal with this problem.

Manpreet admits that the road to qualification for the Olympic Games has become challenging. It could get even arduous and even unpredictable if the shortcomings are not addressed at the earliest. The coach has a job on his hands.