December 10 would go down as the day Indian hockey touched its nadir. A draw against South Korea in their last league game meant, for the first-time ever, India would not finish on the podium in the continental games.
Ironically, Sunday's was perhaps their best performance in the tournament. However, instead of getting into the "sack Gill, Jothikumaran, Baskaran" mode or blaming the federation for "not selecting the right team", it would be better to try and figure what would be the immediate fallout for the various elements that go on to make the Indian hockey squad's whole.
But, whatever the outcome, one thing is certain Messrs Gill & Jothikumaran will remain firmly entrenched at the top. Only a few days ago, Gill had claimed the team was doing "extremely well" in Doha! Given that, it would be no surprise if the axe again falls on the players and the coach while the two-man 'decision-making committee' will continue to enjoy their 12-year-old reign, uninterrupted.
For chief coach V Baskaran, it would effectively signal the end of his fourth stint at the helm of the national team. For skipper Dilip Tirkey and several seniors, it could well mean the end of their careers.
The federation, and the bunch of former players masquerading as selectors, have already indicated that the team would be revamped after the Asiad, irrespective of the result. The process would now only be hastened. But for Indian hockey itself, it would be the final hymn in a long-running funeral show after the shocker against China.
Former player Mervyn Fernandes is still trying to figure what is wrong. "I just don't see the confidence that should come with being an India player," he says, adding that the players appear more confused than anything else. "This team can be a winner if only they get back to the basics."
Former coach Jagbir Singh is amongst the few who feel Indian hockey is still alive. "The need of the hour is long-term planning. India did not play a single competitive match between the World Cup and the Asian Games. We do not have the bench strength. We had a great team in 2003-04. If we had persisted with them, we would now have had a large enough pool to pick and choose players from. But then, we do not value what we have in plenty. As a result of this, now we do not have players with potential."
But then, these are petty issues in the larger IHF scheme of things. Sadly, no one seems to be bothered.