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Backroom boys add to teams’ cutting edge

Half-a-dozen tacticians standing at a vantage point, capturing every move on their cameras and gazing into laptops for the entire duration of the game, report S Chakravarty & Ajai Masand.

india Updated: Mar 05, 2010 01:15 IST
S Chakravarty & Ajai Masand

Half-a-dozen tacticians standing at a vantage point, capturing every move on their cameras and gazing into laptops for the entire duration of the game.

Meet the die-hard video-analysts who have accompanied their teams to the FIH Hockey World Cup, under way at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium. On the face of it, the job looks tedious and tiresome, but speak to the men and they are as passionate about their profession as those in the thick of action.

Gerold Heoben, the Netherlands’ assistant coach, says, it’s a job, which has acquired a new dimension. “Players make the game and video analysis is a tool to prepare them.”

Pakistan’s video analyst, Nadeem Khan Lodhi, agrees. Complex formations, man-marking and player analysis form an integral part of the goal-scoring recipe. Analysing the opponent’s strategies and identifying one’s weaknesses is what makes the role of a video-analyst critical.”

Both agree that much of what they do makes for their teams’ success. Associated with Pakistan for more than six years, Lodhi says, “I give video footage of each team to the players. The technical staff and coaches study it and according chalk out strategies.”

Heoben says with the game getting “so quick”, this has become a necessity. “Before a tournament, we analyse data which could run into hundreds of hours but we filter it so that it is easy for the coaches to analyse.”

Lodhi also transmits live footage to the bench when Pakistan play and says it is common practice with most teams. “We make use of CR (cross-reflective) antennas, which is a wireless router that transmits the match as it happens. The coach can study the data and give specific instructions.”

The technology is now being used increasingly in most sports and hockey is not an exception. With almost every team using it, is there a chance of the teams negating each other’s advantage? Lodhi admits that there can never be a foolproof way to succeed.

Heoben also feels there is a flip side to technology. “No doubt, it is good but it can also be dangerous and trick you into underestimating a team. Sometimes, a team might lose badly but it still could have played a good tactical game. Today, South Africa lost by 12 goals, but they played well inside the D.”

The Dutch coach says it’s not that “we keep our analysis a closely guarded secret. We help each other out. We share our footage with other countries like we share our passion for the game. We are competitive and we also maintain conviviality.”

Truly, a motley bunch with a passion for the game!