India finished eighth in the 12-team FIH Hockey World Cup held here. Coach Jose Brasa is satisfied with the performance and the players are happy. Why? Because this is India's best finish since the 1994 World Cup in Sydney.
But the picture is far from rosy. India managed just one win — against Pakistan, and managed to draw with South Africa. In the other matches, they ended up at the wrong end of the result and if the humiliating defeats to Australia and Spain are put in perspective, surely it is not 'satisfying'.
It's time officials take time off battling each other to take drastic steps to improve the game.
Here's what HT thinks can be done:
Conduct elections ASAP:
For Hockey India to function properly, there has to be an elected body in place as soon as possible. The affiliation issue needs to be solved and decision-making decentralized.
Most federations in the world are run by professionals. The Indian system has not worked and power has to shift from honorary administrators to professionals.
Long-term development plans
The focus has to be on the next important tournament. So, target the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Dedicated people are needed to implement the plan.
Talent spotting and nurturing
The fact we don’t have good replacements for players like Prabhjot Singh, Deepak Thakur, Arjun Halappa and Vikram Pillay proves that our talent-spotting and nurturing process is faulty.
Concentrate on grassroots
The players are taught faulty technique, which is exposed when they make it to the big stage. Changing technique at that level and making them adapt to them is futile. The federation should have foreign experts to train coaches who will work with youngsters.
Focus on the 12-16 age group
The future stars will come from this group but we don’t have proper teams at the sub-junior and junior levels. The players are picked tournament-wise and the best fail to graduate to the next level.
It is time our former players realise that the Europeans have left us far behind. We should start using their system of training and nurturing youngsters.
Conduct national championships
From the sub-junior to senior level, the national championships are where the selectors can spot talent. But the federation has been lax in hosting the events. There has been no competition for quite a few years.
The last event the federation hosted at the senior level was the Asia Cup in 2007 and Junior Asia Cup in 2008. There has to be a proper calendar with equal number of tournaments.
Like cricket, there should be paid selectors who are held responsible for their decisions. They should have a tenure and be independent of the federation. They should be assisted by talent spotters every level.
Both the federation, government and fans should give the coaches and players time for the changes to take affect. There is no magic wand to bring instant success. It will take own time and sacking players and coaches has to stop.