Never mind the result. India lost the Punjab Gold Cup final to The Netherlands 2-1 but what mattered was that the team came up with a good performance despite playing a tournament after more than 10 months.
That is one positive from the four-nation tournament that coach Harendra Singh and his boys would take home.
India had a good chance of beating the Dutch and ending their 13-year jinx as Holland were playing without stars like Taeke Taekema and Teun de Nooijer, whom they had sent home at the start of the tournament. That’s why the loss will rankle all the more. India’s failure to close out the match after taking the lead was also galling. This is getting to be a bit of a habit. They have done that on numerous occasions in the past, they did that again on Monday — like in the 2003 Champions Trophy match against the Dutch which India lost 4-3 after leading 3-1.
The final exposed usual chinks in the team — the shortcomings in defense, the problem of conceding goals in the last minutes of the match, inability to deliver the knockout punch, the unsettled forward line and the problem of losing balls easily in the midfield.
However, coach Harendra Singh and his boys will take a lot of heart from the fact that they did manage to hold the Dutch goalless till the second session. The seniors too have settled well, but there are still some areas in which the team is lagging.
What the national selectors and the ad hoc committee now need to do is build up on this performance. However, this performance can’t be a reason to throw the idea of appointing a foreign coach into the bin. Some of the selectors and players have already started making noises in support of an Indian coach. But handing the reins to Harendra on a permanent basis won’t help iron out the problems that the Indian coaches failed to manage thus far.