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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

Hockey

India men bring cheer after women lose World Cup berth
HT Correspondent , Hindustan Times
New Delhi, September 27, 2013
First Published: 01:25 IST(27/9/2013)
Last Updated: 01:31 IST(27/9/2013)

From euphoria to heartbreak, Indian hockey witnessed it all on Thursday.

The men's under-21 team pummeled South Korea 6-1 to continue their domination of the Sultan of Johor Cup and inch closer to the final. With 12 points, India are atop the league standings and play hosts Malaysia in their last round-robin match on Saturday.

On the other hand, the women lost 1-2 to Korea in the semifinals of the Asia Cup, and with it ended their hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup at Hague, the Netherlands.

What stood out in the result is that players like Sushila Chanu and Poonam Rani, who represented the country in the Junior World Cup in May, were doing duty for the senior side in Malaysia.

While as juniors they had raised hopes of a new beginning with the bronze in Monchengladbach, Germany, the disappointing performance in the Asia Cup shows they have a long way to go before they can make a mark in the senior ranks.

The fact that almost the same set of girls play for both the junior and senior team points to a poor supply chain and that all is not well at the grassroots.

Equally worrying is that Hockey India (HI) will have to put together a new side for the 2017 Junior World Cup as the current lot would have graduated to the senior side.

Despite missing the cut, Roelant Oltmans, the high performance director of HI, insisted that the team was on the right track.

"The girls have improved a lot. They are getting closer to the best teams at the continental level," he told HT.

But Baldev Singh, a Dronacharya awardee from Shahabad, Haryana, which is home to several hockey players, lambasted the federation's selection policy.

"If the juniors perform and the seniors don't, there must be something wrong," he said.

The New Year will pose more challenges in the form of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

The pressure will not only be on the players but on the foreign experts, including Australian Neil Hawgood, who oversees the training.

"We need to focus more for 2014," was all Oltmans said when asked about a roadmap.


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