Giving hockey in India a major facelift
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Giving hockey in India a major facelift

There is a lot of focus on the senior team, but India also needs to concentrate on its U-17 and U-18 players by making them play tournaments in Europe, says former captain Sardar Singh.

brand stories Updated: Dec 29, 2018 14:29 IST
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We cannot keep changing players and coaches for the sake of change and hope hockey will do well, says Sardar Singh.(Odisha Government)

Recently, a few players of the Belgian hockey team told me that they were surprised when India didn’t turn out to be one of the top 4 teams at the 2018 World Cup.

In fact, they were confident that after India drew 2-2 with them in the Pool, the team would be difficult to beat. Even Ric Charlesworth had said that India would make it to the semi-finals.

Hearing all this indeed makes me remorseful. Disappointment sets in of having missed India play the semi-finals for the first time after it won the World Cup in 1975.

I missed it twice, once in 2010 and then in 2014. I also wish that I was part of the team at the Odisha World Cup. But that is in the past now. Like in the earlier World Cups that I played, only the teams that maintained consistency, pace, and a strong mental attitude eventually won.

In 2010 and 2014, Australia, coached by Ric Charlesworth, won the trophy. This time, it was Belgium. To watch the latter is joyful. They play with skill and increase pace when required. In fact, their attack begins from the defence, and that continues in a steady flow till they get a PC or a goal. This is what we need to learn. Belgium didn’t play the 2010 World Cup and in the 2014 WC at The Hague in Netherlands, they finished 5th. In 2018, they won it; it was the perfect New Year’s gift for their hockey community.

Hockey is a high-priority sport in Belgium now. They used to play it earlier, but in the last decade or so, they have brought in a thought process that willed them to being the 2016 Olympic silver medalists and the 2018 World Champions. The question is if they can, why can’t we?

The domestic focus has to be on the U-14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 teams, because that is where the talent is. And, I believe that India needs a High-Performance Director for this purpose. We cannot keep changing players and coaches for the sake of change and hope hockey will do well. We have to bring in a foreigner who can scout for talented youngsters. Those youngsters should then be made to play tournaments in big cities, and the events webcast.

Even Hockey India needs to have a younger and vibrant selection committee. There is a lot of focus on the senior team, but India also needs to concentrate on its U-17 and U-18 teams by making them play tournaments in Europe. This will ensure that the youngsters understand how hockey is played abroad. For Belgium or other European nations, their teams can drive into other nations, play a match and reach home in the evening.

I know it’s going to prove expensive for India, but if Australia can do it, why can’t we? Let’s figure out how to change the world of modern hockey.

(This article has been authored by Sardar Singh, a former Indian hockey captain)

First Published: Dec 29, 2018 14:29 IST