Monday, May 7, 2012

Hockey update (May 7, 2012)

Now that the London test event is over, it does appear that there is a big gap between the Indian team and the others (Australia, Germany, Britain). Especially given the four losses. That would be a rather pessimistic take on reality.

India started off with a 3-zip loss, cut down the margin of loss to 2, 1 and 1 goals, respectively. On paper, it appears that the loss against the Australian team is the standard warts-and-moles of the acclimatization problem that every Indian team comes up with out of thin air. One really cannot do much with this in the Games except hope that the first match is against New Zealand, Korea or Belgium. The dynamic of a serious whitewash or a nail-biting adrenaline-sapping loss in the first game could be catastrophic to the campaign even if the World Cup 2010 stands as an exhibit in the other direction. Further, against the strongest (of the three) German team, India conceded a 65 minute goal to lose the match. That does sound like the team is growing in stature to not be left out of the semi-finals at the Games. While the cold weather excuse is a standard refrain, I will not buy too much into that especially since the Games will be in the peak of summer notwithstanding the prayer of the Assistant Coach of the British team. I am happy that a consistent team has been stuck out for both the test event and the Azlan Shah Cup, where we meet New Zealand, Korea and Britain in the goal towards fine-tuning the line-up. I believe there is a short friendly tour to Spain sometime (do not know if it is before or after the Azlan event). I hope the Indian team soaks in the sticky blue/pink outfield and not ends up losing any key players to injuries like the Australian team had to face in the warm-up game against India. On the bias from the whites against the Asian teams, here is more: Linky.

On the junior side, I am quite disappointed with the Junior Asia Cup campaign so far. The presence of an experienced line-up such as Amit Rohidas, Naveen Antil or Malak Singh has not been sufficient to stamp a class act in the event. After a lacklustre 11-zip win over minnows Sri Lanka, a heart-stopping 2-all draw against Pakistan and a real-back-to-the-wall 2-1 win over China, I am not impressed. The fact that Pakistan could squeeze no more than a 1-zip win over China is not comforting either. The only saving grace has been the performance of the goalkeeper Sushant Tirkey. Coach Baljit Singh Saini (coming in as replacement for Mukesh Kumar) has a lot to worry about the performance of this team even though the real campaign begins just now in the semi-finals against Malaysia. The Pakistani team will take on the junior runners from South Korea in the other semi-final.

On the administrative side, it is all snakes and ladders (or cloaks and daggers) depending on how you see the games playing out. Neither Hockey India nor IHF want to give up control for the betterment of the game and that should not be a surprise from hell. The fact that FIH came to mediate a secret truce behind media-lines shows how bad the state-of-affairs is from all the vantage points one can get a hold on. Anyway, status quo is all that can be shared.

Coming up next: Tamil problem of Sri Lanka: a religious war in everything else except attribution

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