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All players asked to submit report (8/18/2012)
--Uthra Ganesan Chaturvedi
All players asked to submit report

Indian hockey’s worst Olympic nightmare (if one discounts the failure to qualify for the Beijing edition in 2008) may have finally ended at the Riverbank Arena in London but the post-mortem of the same continues. And this time, there will be 20 doctors dissecting the team’s dismal performance.

According to team sources, every player of the squad has been asked to give his own report on what went wrong with the team at the Olympics. For a long time, the rule in Indian hockey was that only the team manager would submit a report on the team’s performance after every tour. Then, in the late 1990s, the coach started adding his own assessment. In recent times, the captain was also asked to give his own specific report.

It also made sense for these three people to voice their opinions – the captain being the one actually in the middle, the coach being the one who made the plans and the manager being the federation representative on the outside. But it’s for the first time that every one present at London – all the players, the physiotherapist and the doctor included – has been asked to come up with their own reports.

However, the players refuse to come on record regarding the same – despite everything, some things never change in Indian hockey, one of them being “off record” on any topic fearing official retribution. “Off record”, therefore, the players admit they have been asked to submit the reports.

“Senior players, those with about 2-3 years experience, have been asked to give a complete, detailed report on what they think went wrong while the younger players have only been told to give a brief idea. Even though no player wants to get personally involved since this is a team failure and not individual blame game, but we have all been asked for our inputs and opinions,” said a player.

At one level, this may seem a good thing. After all, even the juniormost player in the team (Manpreet Singh) is old enough to vote and be counted as an adult, and if he is qualified enough to be part of the national team, he definitely must be considered mature and intelligent enough to understand the game. Australian legend Ric Charlesworth’s training method often includes dividing his players into small groups of 3, 4 or 6 and making them play each other, with no instructions – they have to work out their own gameplans and strategies.

Even India coach Michael Nobbs experimented with the idea in his initial days. In his first camp in charge, Nobbs did the same – making players lay six-a-side hockey on half turf with no instructions except to score as much as possible and stop the opposition from scoring. It may seem simple but any team that can do both these tasks effectively would, practically, become unbeatable! However, once the team started participating in competitions, he fell back into the traditional pattern of training, having a core group of decision makers and putting the experimental idea on the backburner. For the federation to now go back to the drawing board and trying to get all players’ opinion appears more an attempt to spread the blame equally rather than any serious effort at finding the cause of the London debacle. If anything, this should have been done after the Olympic qualifiers, and by the coach himself, giving everyone enough time to work out the glitches.

One of the players admitted that even though everyone will have to give a report, he was not sure how many will be willing to be honest in their opinion. “See, the reason we stay off record is because no one wants individual trouble. Now, if we go out and be very honest in our individual reports, no one will know what will happen next. So, what’s the purpose? If every player writes ‘poor finish, bad defence, poor trapping” etc, then asking for individual reports has no meaning. Unless, of course, all reports remain anonymous!” he said.

Another player seconded saying he expected most players to go the collective way, him included. “Why take panga or stand out? Better to be part of the team, no?”

In such a scenario, it would be naive to expect any worthwhile outcome of the entire exercise.

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