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Special moment to see India beat England (10/13/2010)
--Shashank Gupta
A very special moment to see India beat England

Post Ind-Aus match, Jose Brasa said that we are best team at the practice and worst team in matches - I kind of believed in what he said. But now, for sure, he will agree that his lads have delivered many lessons that he has taught. However, if he says there is more to come, we are surely waiting for that

treat. Beating Pakistan 7-4 in a jam-packed, all-sold out stadium was special but by storming into the CWG Finals by outplaying England, Indians have knocked at doors of top-level Hockey. No development teams, no injured players, no last minute drop outs, no suspensions, we don’t have any reason to downplay the victory of our team yesterday.

It’s almost impossible to beat a top-notch country like England. It was not fluke but a fiercely contested battle. Englishmen never gave it up until the last second of extra and so didn’t India. Although, Bharat Chhetri’s save in the shootout was priceless but it’s heartening to see people talking more about Indian team’s rejuvenated performance.

From the traditional mindset of defense is the work of full-backs and half backs to the more recent principle of full team defending an opponent’s attack, India has made a big progress in modern Hockey. Sardara Singh, otherwise a playmaker in the mid-field in his entire Hockey career, in the defense line is an endorsement of the fact that contemporary Hockey is about challenging oneself. Mahadik’s improvement of his mistakes from the previous games is a commendable effort.

The Dutch can’t claim anymore that Indians play position based Hockey so it’s easy to mark them. Take this example of yesterday’s game: A Vikram Pillay diving from nowhere in the ‘D’ to deflect a long cross pass from Sandeep Singh almost from the half line.

Mid-fielders playing like crazy attackers, defenders coming down to the midfield and forwards reaching out to help their defense line, only exemplifies the concept of ‘Total Hockey’ recently embraced by Indians under their Spanish coach.

Certainly, gone are the days of wild hits into the circle with no takers. After pushing the ball for PC, the way Sarvanjit Singh comes and stands to the left side of the post – he can’t be practically marked at this time – depicts that India is ‘thinking’. It wasn’t that England was short of ideas. During their PC variation – by which they scored the 2nd and 3rd goal - they caught an otherwise brilliant Chetri, short of ideas, movement and reaction time.

Indian story doesn’t stop here: 4 on 4 marking in the Indian circle as the English attacker enters the top of the D only to find Prabodh Tirkey who did nothing but only implemented a point from basics of Hockey. Result: Dangerous looking attack confidently foiled followed by a counter attack.

It’s not only this, Indian athleticism has blossomed, the team movement in the midfield, flanks and the circle is so fast that it really put the otherwise very stable, very strong defense, resilient English team under pressure.

Long accurate passes, neat dodges, very little solo Hockey, least dribbling, changing flanks, you name a technique where Indians were criticized before and they look promising now.

Going down 1-3 and then recovering to give a gripping finish to the match is a reminder of the fact that it’s needs time and effort to reach such a stage. Not playing with heart but with strategy as well is something Indian team is putting across to it viewers and critics. It is these things that speak volumes of hard work by coaching staff headed by Brasa.

For the moment, Brasa, with his efforts, ideas and professionalism, has won the hearts of many fans who have overloaded him with their expectations. Australia is reining World Champion and they almost look invincible. Pakistan stopped them 1-0 a few days back. If we can even match up our yesterday’s performance who knows what the final score board may read and I may get down to writing another intensely felt blog like this.

Whatever the results may be but CWG semi-finals between India v England will come certainly make it to the Classics category and a Hockey fan like me will take pride to say, “Yes, I didn’t miss it.”

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