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Back to home turf

A bronze medal after a gap of almost three long years. Is Indian hockey back on track? Anupam Thapa probes.

india Updated: Jun 28, 2006 19:06 IST

As the whole world is busy watching action on the football pitch in Germany, even cricketers in the Caribbean are crying for attention. Amidst all this drama, one thing that nearly went unnoticed was an Indian resurgence that happened in Malaysia.

To top it all, it was a resurgence of grit and determination, of faith and confidence of players and our national game-- hockey.

Long hiatus

After a hiatus of almost three years, Indian hockey players finally landed on the podium to grab a bronze in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, in fact ahead of Pakistan who had to be content with a fifth position.

India’s last title victory was in 2003 when it won the Afro-Asian games gold in Hyderabad. The same year they won the Asia Cup and a four nations tournament in Australia.

But after the disaster in Athens Olympics, nothing worked for Indian hockey. Not even the frequently changed coaches or team members of the winning junior World Cup squad. However, what remained unchanged were the dictatorial ways of Indian Hockey President KPS Gill and the functioning of his cronies.

Coach’s prescription

However, Indian coach V Bhaskaran’s third stint with the team is proving to be the right prescription for the floundering Indian hockey team. Although his first series in Germany was a disaster, he needs some time to get India back to its winning ways.

However, legendary Dhyan Chand’s son and former hockey star Ashok Kumar feels, “It’s a good morale booster for the Indian team. I must congratulate the team. But they need to work really hard to counter the European teams and Australia.

Azlan Shah is not the right test for the team. India tried to counter the Australians but they lost. Malaysia and Korea are Asian teams while New Zealand is a weaker side.

“Indian hockey has always been good, but they were not consistent with their performance. Even if you keep the functioning of the federa tion aside, with their own commitment, players can do a lot to the game.”

Right lessons

Even coach Bhaskaran is happy with the way India played in the play-off. According to media reports, Bhaskaran said, “This has been a good tournament for us. India always had problems playing in classification matches. We have learnt a lot.” Hope the lessons learnt here are utilised by the Indian team in higher levels of the game.