Looking back at the 2018 Hockey World Cup
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Looking back at the 2018 Hockey World Cup

Hockey has come a long way in terms of skill and playing methods, says former Indian coach Col. Balbir Singh.

brand stories Updated: Dec 26, 2018 12:41 IST
It was a pleasure to watch the World Cup from the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, says former Indian coach Col. Balbir Singh.(Odisha government)

It’s been more than a week since the 2018 Men’s Hockey World Cup got over. And I simply can’t get over the fact that hockey has come a long way in terms of skill, playing methods, and the aggression in terms of marking. For a person who played hockey 40 years ago, it indeed was wonderful to watch the matches.

The sport was vibrant even during the 1968 Mexico Olympics, but I loved watching it even more now. And to be able to watch it at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar was a pleasure. Yes, there are wonderful stadiums across the world, but nothing compares to watching hockey in Odisha.

What I loved was the fact that even after Belgium had won, fans waited for the World Cup to be given away. I bet that every team loved playing in Bhubaneswar, and this is one World Cup that will not get replicated in a hurry.

Talking about the Indian team, I think they need to understand what happened at the World Cup.

It’s sad we couldn’t see India in the last four; and, whenever I think of the QF match against Holland, I always get the impression we could have won, provided we had selected a few players and not dumped them. In my opinion, Sardar was the missing link in this team, but I don’t think Hockey India would agree to that. It’s also time to get a new selection committee which is slightly younger and has played the game in the last decade or so. At least, there will be a debate on the team while the coach gives his list.

I recently met SV Sunil, and he said that he was fit to play. So, why wasn’t the quickest forward in the Indian team selected? Yes, there were injury concerns, but if the player and a senior one at that says he could have played, why wasn’t anyone hearing his side of the story? I am not trying to create any controversy. All I am saying is that India probably didn’t select the right team for the World Cup. You can’t blame the youngsters, but playing a World Cup without experience in your ranks is asking for trouble.

Rupinder Pal Singh was one player we missed. The answer was Harmanpreet, but how many goals did he score? And in the match against Holland—which was a crucial one—he played below par. So, the selection committee should have considered that all matches wouldn’t be played against Canada or South Africa.

India also needs to take a call on P Sreejesh, who has been the goalkeeper for almost a decade now. Getting goals through your legs is not a good sign. I think after the Asian Games, and especially after his injury, he has not only lost reflexes, but also confidence.

Overall, they won’t persuade Sardar out of his retirement, even though I feel the team needs him for Tokyo. The team should get back Sunil and take a decision on Harjeet Singh. The boy was the captain of the Indian team that won the 2016 Junior World Cup, so he can’t be all that bad.

The next thing on our plate is qualifying for the Olympics, which calls for an excellent team, Young legs or old legs don’t matter; the players who can handle stress need to be selected.

(This article has been authored by Col Balbir Singh, a former Indian coach who was also a part of the 1968 bronze medal-winning Olympic team)

First Published: Dec 26, 2018 12:38 IST