‘India had the potential to reach the hockey World Cup finals’
As I look back at the 2018 Hockey World Cup, a sense of frustration hits me. Even though India came out looking wonderful as a host, it wasn’t quite so when it came to the game.
I completely believe that the team had the potential to reach the finals. After that, it would have been anybody’s game. India playing the quarter-final against an opponent like Holland, who had been pegged back simply because of the potential of India’s counters and turn-around capability, was a missed opportunity.
It is time to rectify things. Or, at least, to immediately start thinking of creating a team for the next World Cup.
Looking at the selection committee, I also feel that it is time to get younger players into scouting and going for under-18 tournaments, as they can understand what is required at the highest level.
The FIH is looking to hold the Junior World Cup every two years, and that is a good thing for our players. This is because we have so many players who don’t get enough exposure. The junior World Cup allows us to test a lot of players and then pick the best for the senior World Cup and the Olympic Games.
It’s also time to get over the defeat at the Asian Games. It’s important to understand the qualification requirements and prepare a team accordingly. We have the core area taken care of, so all that is required is to have certain players fill in key positions. I feel Rupinder Pal Singh needs to be drafted back.
The one thing I don’t agree to is over-dependence on the defence. Yes, modern hockey is different, fast, and all players need to fall back. But a few players are different, and they exert pressure on the opposition.
I think a few fundamental errors in the quarter-final game against Holland cost us the match. We played well as a defensive unit, but then the same fluency should have been there in the forward line, where Mandeep and Dilpreet looked a bit confused. Maybe, this is an area that Harendra needs to focus on. Of course, slight tweaking will not harm our prospects.
I want to see forwards dictating the pace of the game, allowing the midfield and defenders to move up. That’s what a good defence also needs to do – move up and push the opposition back so that everybody can create that space.
(This article has been authored by Vasudevan Bhaskaran, who was the captain of the Indian hockey team that won gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He also coached India at the 2000 Sydney Olympics)
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