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Key lessons for the Indian hockey team

Instead of mourning over the loss at the recently concluded World Cup, India should start preparing for other tournaments, says former hockey stalwart Sardar Singh.

brand stories Updated: Dec 24, 2018 15:15 IST
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Instead of reacting to the quarter-final loss, India should look forward to future competitions like the next World Cup and a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, says former Indian captain Sardar Singh(Odisha government)

Instead of reacting to the quarter-final loss, India should look forward to the next World Cup, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and also the most important task at hand, which is to qualify for the Olympics.

After failing to win the 2018 Asian Games Gold, India has to go through a gruelling qualifying process and ensure that the mistakes of 2008 are not repeated. India failing to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics was a management failure and a failure to read the situation when it came to losing to England in the final. That cannot and should not be repeated.

We have a good team; they have the maturity to play for India till the next World Cup. We have always done the mistake of chopping and changing a team when it fails. This is a completely wrong way of nurturing a team.

Look at any Olympic Games, World Cup, or Asian Games - a failure to win or reach the medal round results in replacement of a few players who would have done very well in the next 2-3 years for the nation. There is no continuity for a player, and he refuses to take risks.

There are players in this team who have at times underperformed, even at the just concluded World Cup. I think we need to talk to them and understand what went wrong. Replacing them with youngsters who will take another 3-4 years to mature is foolhardy.

Look at the European teams. They keep players for such a long time, allowing them to mature and understand their opponents.

I feel Harendra Singh did a good job as a coach. After all, he also took the team to the Champions Trophy final, where we lost very narrowly to Australia. I don’t think one should hold the semi-final loss against Malaysia as a coaching issue. Players also need to stand up and be counted. Yes, we lost the match to Holland 1-2 in the quarter-finals, and we could have won that game or at least taken it to the shoot-out. But Harendra also needs time to get a group together. It has hardly been six months since he took over, and expecting a coach to win you the World Cup in six months is also wrong.

Instead of giving this team to another coach, it’s time to go ahead with continuity, as that will only lead to consistency. This team deserves the best, and I feel if this same bunch is kept and made to play all tournaments under the same management, then we would have consistent results and podium finishes.

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

First Published: Dec 24, 2018 15:14 IST