Belgium's Jerome Dekeyser is congratulated by teammate Felix Denayer after he scored a goal against India during their men's group B hockey match at the Riverbank Arena at the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Reuters/Suhaib Salem)
The Indian hockey team plunged to a new low, losing 0-3 against a Belgian side that was certainly not as overwhelmingly superior as the scoreline may suggest.
India failed to convert as Belgian goalie Vincent Vanasch saved nine shots while at least three sitters in front of an open goal found no Indian player who could connect.
“We didn’t play as a team the whole tournament. Every match we went down and down,” summed up a dejected captain Bharat Chettri. “Morale is totally down,” he added.
Asked just what was wrong, he replied: “We are not defending, neither are we scoring. We have to learn more hockey!” Set to play South Africa to decide which team finishes at the bottom of the 12-strong event, the Indian team has appeared clueless throughout the Olympics. Tuesday’s encounter would not have made any difference to India’s standing in it’s pool of six teams, but there was surely pride to play for.
“We are playing 30-40% of what we are capable of. We have to improve a lot,” said Chettri.
Coach Michael Nobbs, who has been scathing in his criticism of the squad over the last few matches, did not turn up to face questions in the post-match press conference.
The major issue this time around has been the lack of pluck among the senior members and an inability to raise their game.
When more than 50% of the moves are sculpted by one player, Sardar Singh, it is obvious the other seniors are not pulling their weight. Sandeep Singh, Shivendra Singh, Gurbaj Singh and Tushar Khandker have some tough questions to answer when they get back.
Word from the team has it that the coach is set to get rid of all four. Such drastic action may be the only way forward for Indian hockey.