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Indian hockey players cornered, and rated (8/9/2012)
--Shashank Gupta
Indian hockey players cornered, and rated
by Shashank Gupta

Many in the hockey fraternity often rue their sport never gets mass attention. Now they can be sure why it is so. Most Indians followed Olympic hockey like never before and it was right opportunity for Indian hockey to grab its due attention, but as usual it did the reverse.

With news channels, websites and social networking site vie with each other in updating second-by-second info, Indian hockey has got unprecedented visibility during London days -- much higher than the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games and even the 2010 World Cup. There is no doubt on that.

Therefore, when the Indian team lost 5 out of 5, gave away goals three times more than they scored, there is a valid reason for the nation to be disappointed and disheartened – even dare to discount hockey as a prestigious sport of us.

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Before blaming anybody and everybody, it is better to assess each player based on some sound data, when done so, it throws fascinating picture.

It’s a general belief that a player never plays to lose or to say the least, a player always gives his heart out, but the dismal performance and the supporting statistical information, proves otherwise.

A volume of data are provided for analysis in the official sources. This writer used them to derive a performance matrix.

Here are the performances of the forwards: This indicates goal scored/attempts made in first five matches:

Tushar (1/9),
Danish Mujtaba (0/2),
Dharamvir (1/3),
Shivendra (1/8),
Gurwinder Chandi (1/2),
SV Sunil (0/5),
SK Uthappa (0/6)

Total chances for our forwards: 35

Goals scored by forwards: 4

This means, on an average, in each match, our forwards got 7 chances to score field goals and our conversion rate remains a pathetic 0.8 goal per match. Bring in Raghunath (1/5) and Sandeep (1/8) and that makes it a little above 1 goal per match!

The grand total becomes:

Chances to score: 48

Goals scored: 6

Now consider the load that various players have shared:

In 5 matches, Sardar Singh was on the turf full time without a break, i.e. all 70 minutes, each match!

Similarly, Ignace Tirkey was on the field for a whopping 63m per match! This was followed by Raghunath and Sandeep Singh for 38m each. Guess what this means – in the defense, one Ignace is equal to Raghunath plus Sandeep!

In the midfield, Manpreet topped with a crazy 62 minutes, followed by Birendra Lakra (57m) and Gurbaj Singh (39m).

The same figures for the forwards are: Danish Mujtaba (60m), Tushar (56m), Sunil(53m), Shivendra (53m), Dharamvir (52m), SK Uthappa (38m) and Gurwinder Chandi (34m).

Similar statistics for the goalkeepers Chetri and Sreejesh are 45m and 25m, respectively.

What these numbers mean? Ideally, these numbers should have been equally distributed. Check it out! Chandi and Uthappa, have been fielded for much lesser durations in comparison to Danish Mujtaba who was on the field for 60m (on avg.) each match, but created only a petty two chances to score!

Why is there such a big mismatch between Manpreet and Gurbaj? Was our skill-set in the mid-field so skewed that Manpreet plays for 62m, Sardara for 70m and Lakra plays for 57m and Gurbaj plays only half a match? If Gurbaj wasn’t good enough, he shouldn’t have been at London, at the first place! undefined

This certainly puts coach’s use of players under cloud.

A look at the individual games of all the players is surely a heart-breaker: 1) Gurbaj Singh will always try to whack the ball from the right flank, mostly blind ones, leaving someone out there (read, middle flank or left flankers) to rescue it. I sometimes feel even God would not have been at ease to use Gurbaj’s rank bad blinders. He is adept at gifting penalty corners. He gave away a lot. Score: 4/10

2) SV Sunil, otherwise a highly athletic player with immense talent, his work would end as he sprints down with the ball over the back line. As he touches that line, he will release the ball, never sure to whom it will reach. He did that and kept on doing it repeatedly. Score: 5/10

3) Tushar: he would never look up while running, keeps the ball with him for a long time, would release it to another player almost in a hopeless situation. Barring a few instances, where showed his team spirit, Tushar would come so close to the goalpost at the back-line that he himself didn’t know what next can be done now. Score: 5/10

4) V R Raghunath has improved with his defense skills. He was in fact responsible for many clearances and kept on doing the hard work. Compared to a Sandeep Singh, he stands out. However, Raghunath has momentary temperament issues. The consequences were disastrous, he conceded goals for India, and at least India lost its referral only because of his adamant insistence of his claim. He is also guilty of gifting many few penalty corners which are mostly avoidable. Score: 6/10

5) The less is said about Danish Mujtaba, the better it is. His job was to go down the center-lane but could hardly make an entry into the opponent circle. Instead, he failed to trap properly, and on the other hand, kept offering his foot inside the Indian circle. Indian woes kept increasing each time he did so. Score: 1/10

6) It’s high time that the hype that comes along with Sandeep Singh comes to an end. Mere one conversion out of 8 penalty corner is disgusting. He is a normal player and that is where the whole gaga must end! His defending skills have improved but nowhere close to desirable. Score: 2/10

7) Ignace Tirkey, the silent warrior, along with Birendra Lakra, should be honored for clearing so many onslaughts of the opponents with a brave heart. His performance was surely a heart-warming one. One can only hope that the coach would have realized that a single player can’t take that much load as Ignace took. Score: 9/10

8) Birendra Lakra is surely the find of the tournament. He stood between India and rivals, helped reduce our margin of defeat. Score: 8/10

9) Manpreet Singh is extremely talented and many a times was seen putting his heart into blocking many moves and creating penalty corners. Score: 7/10

10) Dharamvir Singh a lighter version of Danish Mujtaba. Score: 3/10

11) During 2010 World Cup, Shivendra Singh was suspended for two games. The hot-selling theory was the Tournament Director, an Australian, contributed his bit for the upcoming match between India v Australia because Shivendra was the sharpest weapon in the Indian armory. Two years on, (mind you that’s not a long time) that theory sounds like a big joke. Shivendra stands guilty of not being able to reach out to any of the passes that were directed towards him. notwithstanding the fact, many passes were far from perfect ones, but on the rest, Shivendra couldn’t do even what an upstart college-level player would have done. Score: 1/10

12) Although, Chetri showed character in many saves, but there are certain angles where he has no clue whatsoever, about the direction in which the ball would fly for instance. The response time by Chetri at the penalty corners was unacceptable. Score: 5/10

13) Whatever little time Sreejesh was fielded in each match, he showed his class. If he goes like this, India has a very good option in him. Score: 8/10

14) India remains too dependent on Sardar Singh. Apart from the maintaining the high-bar that he is set out for himself, many a times, he struggled in controlling the midfield, not because of any lack of skills, but because of a strong opponent, who made sure that the other mid-fielders and forwards are out of reach of Sardar. Europeans seemed to have learnt how to render him ineffective. Sadly, our coach had no answer when Sardara’s wings were thus clipped – that happened in almost all games. Score: 7/10

15) Uthappa’s in-experience showed up as he kept missing simple hits in the circle. If a raw and talented player like him can’t match up to the high pressure situation like this, why was he there at all? He should have had much more exposure than what he got before being selected to Olympics. Score: 3/10

16) One always felt Gurwinder Chandi fared better than a Shivendra, a Danish, a Dharamvir or a Sunil. Why coach showed more faith in failing forwards than this promising youngster, remains a mystery. Score: 7/10

Unfortunately, Indian players crime list on the field – random passing, no concept of one-touch deflection, poor trapping, poor finishing, no game plans, no counter-plans – is endless.

Most hockey fans wonder why the team went there at the first place when they had to eventually contest for the 11 place (out of 12 contestants)! They wasted our time and energy and theirs too!

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