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The real game starts now

After the euphoria of Olympic qualification, we look at the hockey team’s chances at this summer’s showpiece event.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2012 02:43 IST
Navneet Singh

Celebrations over, it's time for some serious thinking as India face a reality check.

With the London Olympics, just five months away, the big question now is whether Michael Nobbs and his boys can build on their dazzling victory in the Olympic Qualifiers on Sunday when they square up against the best in the business.

While teams like France — whom India thumped 8-1 in the final of the tournament — and Singapore hardly tested India, Canada and Poland, ranked much below the hosts, exposed chinks in goalkeeping and defence. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/28_feb_pg19b.jpg

Former international player and coach of the victorious India men's team in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, MK Kaushik, said the team had earned itself a great chance of catching up with the other leading nations.

“There are still five months to improve the fitness and iron out the chinks for the Games,” said Kaushik.

All in the mind

“To face stronger teams, India should immediately start working on fitness and mental strength. Big match temperament is important. It helps to cope up with pressure in crucial matches,” he said.

But former drag-flicker, Jugraj Singh, felt India had a big advantage over other nations that have qualified for London.

“We have three penalty-corner specialists. Apart from Sandeep Singh, VR Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh are also equally capable. This gives the team management the option to fall back on these two in case of a mishap or injury to Sandeep. It is a big asset for the team,” he said.

Pessimism

But selector and former Olympian, Col Balbir Singh, did not sound very optimistic. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/28_feb_pg19a.jpg

“It's an uphill journey. Defence and goalkeeping are two areas that could spell trouble for the team in the London Olympic Games,” he said. “Penalty corner is the only strong point at the moment. But the team should co-ordinate to score more field goals,” he added.

Sometimes pressure and the rigours of training can make sport a dull affair. Kaushik alluded to that when he said, “A balance in training would be a key factor in India's preparation for the mega event.

“There should be some fun too. Overloading the players (with practice and strategy) may bury our hopes in the quadrennial event.”

(With inputs from Saurabh Duggal)