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My Last Word
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My last word: Part II. Patience and persistence (3/24/2010)
--K. Arumugam
My last word: Part II. Patience and persistence are needed

Home teams always do well, more so in World Cups. India is stand alone exception to this global phenomenon.

Like in Bombay 28 years ago, India did nothing worth here in Delhi.

With a mere win and a draw in six matches, India improved three positions in the final ranking. This has more to do with the forms of other teams than its own; the failure of China and Belgium not making it to the World Cup should not be lost sight of.

Before the start of the Hero Honda World Cup, experts hoped India to do well if it starts well. India hardly started any major tournament with a win. Secondly, most of us hoped the crowd will propel India to give some thing extra.

Both the theories flopped.

Despite 3-goal margin victory over Pakistan, India flattered to deceive thereafter. In fact, India played only first two and half matches well before plunging back into its old traditional fashion of self-destruction.

In one way it can be said the last six months of Brasa’ training percolated to only to two and half matches, where we saw full use of width, team game, steady defence etc. It is therefore long way to go for India.

If India does not take its good game beyond first two and half matches, it was because of two factors. Firstly, the forwards, most of them are stars and experienced, could not change to new hockey for long, they perforce fell back to age old individual game when came under pressure. Since they are experienced, aged and already stars, it is expected they will have problem to adjust. It proved to be so. After all, they have to unlearn before learning new things. Therefore, Brasa’s belief in experienced forwards is yet to pay dividends.

Secondly, in modern hockey, most of the team members score. India lacked scorers in most of the team members, and scoring plan is stale. India still looks for spectacular and laborious goals rather than clinical and geometrical ones.

After Monchengladbach World Cup, I wrote how free hit defection has become the main source of goal scoring. India is yet to catch up with it, as England, Australia and Germany proved again in Delhi.

Penalty corners no longer decide the match outcomes, two teams who believed otherwise fared badly – India and Pakistan.

Brasa’s over-dependence on Sandeep Singh – he took 90 percent of Indian penalty corners – did not give results. This site has consistently maintained how he is not good beyond Asian teams.

Here we have to ask a pertinent question to Brasa, why he did not give adequate opportunities to Diwakar or Dhananjay Mahadik?

Brasa’s logic, at least for the Spain match – incidentally the worst match India played in Delhi – was that Sandeep scored three goals when they played a Test Series during the Europe Tour. It seems now the Spaniards understood Sandeep rather than India! Unless Brasa makes course correction on the choice of penalty corners, unless he believes in others, this continues to be the danger area, as has been the case in the last six years.

Indian coach Jose Brasa is good at communication. With a bit of humour and lot of conviction in his thought and action, he won many a hearts. We all stood by him. However, everybody has to face enormous embarrassment when India conceded three goals in four minutes, in going down to Argentina 4-2. It is one team against which India had enough experience in the run up to the World Cup, and the way we lost it, makes a hole in the coaching credentials of Brasa. We hope this is an exception.

Over all, Indian defence’s weakness came to the fore and was glaring because we failed at the scoring department. In modern hockey, conceding goals should not be worry beyond certain extent.

Winning for India is not going to be easy, especially after Shivender like episodes. A section in the FIH undermines what the top brass of FIH believes. A tournament director chased the Indian team in the midnight before the final at Chile, now after one match Shivendra was suspended for two matches. It seems only India has ‘rogue’ players, and the Indian team is guinea pig so that a message can be sent to other teams!

Unless Indian management will have its own intelligence bank to take a proactive posture, to fight back, ready to prove how other team members too do indulge in various acts of omission and commission, an influential section in FIH is not going to stop from its sadistic tendencies.

Punishing Indian team, it seems, improves the profile of certain second rated technical officials. Certainly, a big task is on the hands of Brasa.

It’s sickening to see Tournament Director tutoring Indian players after every match, a strong manager would have never allowed this psyching tactics to take place.

If the best team in pool, England, lost out to Germany 1-4 in the semis, and then failed to hold on to its 3-0 lead in the bronze match, one of the reasons was absence of Richard Mantell. One player’s absence can create havoc, it happened in India’s case. After India’s success over Pakistan, the team was on its best form. This was undone with Shivender’s suspension. Brasa may not have upped the ante in this case, that is due to diplomatic nicety, but the fact of the matter is this sudden development has undone India, upset its applecart.

So, Brasa survives, we are glad at it.

But he has to look at the talent pool afresh, use the full team, believe in all 18 players, devise workable scoring modules, prevail on seniors on their mindset.

The dangers of home team not doing well are all too well known. Hockey will lose its appeal if it continues to fail on home events. The FIH wants at least one major tournament each year in India. If that has to work and bring intended results, Indian team needs to perform well. This adds to the pressure on India.

The nation has to now stand by Brasa and help him implement his well-articulated Project India concept in letter and spirit.

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