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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

Learnings for the Indian hockey team

Former Indian hockey coach Col Balbir Singh tells us why it’s time for an overhaul.

brand-stories Updated: Dec 17, 2018 12:14 IST
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The Men’s Hockey World Cup was held in Bhubaneswar from November 28 to December 16.
The Men’s Hockey World Cup was held in Bhubaneswar from November 28 to December 16.(Odisha government)
         

It was kind of surreal watching the Men’s Hockey World Cup finals. We all know that Belgium is a top-rated team. But, what a performance! And that performance also showed us where we lack as a team, provided someone was watching it with those eyes in the Federation.

The game is so different now—fast, packed with skills, and requiring a different kind of mental ability. The finals may have finished goalless in regulation time, but the intensity, pace, and aggression in the attacks left us exhilarated. I did believe that Belgium had the edge as they are technically very sound and understand how to stretch the flanks and create movement. But the Dutch hung in. This may not be the best of Dutch teams. But they have some of the best forwards, and in Thierry Brinkmann they have a wonderful striker.

Honestly, we are not far behind. But we are behind. That is the first thing to understand and rectify. At times, we do get carried away and feel that the team can reach the finals. I think we were good enough to be among the top four teams, and that is something we will always regret. Sometimes, when you enter the last four of a World Cup, you start believing in yourself and that reflects in your play.

India did mistakes in their team composition, and the balance that you see in the Belgian side was completely missing in the Indian squad. Consistency is a big requirement in today’s games. Belgium was unbeaten in the World Cup, and the only draw they played was with India.

India need to serious ponder upon their plans for the future. It’s been 43 years since we last won the World Cup. But in a constantly changing sporting landscape, such thoughts should only spur us on. Belgium is a new winner of the World Cup. In the Asian scene, we have Japan coming up, and they are the Asian Games gold medal winners. Hockey is thriving, and to thrive in that group, we have to be realistic and dump the short term for the long term.

It took Belgium some serious planning for eight years to win the World Cup, and that is something we need to emulate. Bring in the right mix of coaches and not people who are just living off the system. Through Adam Commens, Colin Batch, and now Shane Mcleod, Belgium are world champions. The first two are Aussie coaches and Shane is a New Zealander. Colin is also the coach of the Australian team that won the bronze at Bhubaneswar.

Ours is a system that only reacts, but that, too, without any thinking. If India need to overhaul their hockey system, they need to put in place a plan for eight years and get in coaches who last four- or six-year terms.

We have some wonderful junior players. Even the team that recently played the Johor Cup in Malaysia is very young and ready to be exposed to some good European tours. But the main part is the long term. Without that, we will always be a team that excels in patches without being consistent enough to win titles.

This article has been authored by Col Balbir Singh, a former Indian hockey coach who won the 1968 Olympic Bronze medal.

First Published: Dec 17, 2018 12:13 IST

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