Indian hockey's future lies in able hands
With the present imperfect and India making every effort to make the cut for the Beijing Olympics, fears being nurtured about the future of hockey could be logical.Updated: Jan 06, 2008 15:37 IST
With the present imperfect and India making every effort to make the cut for the Beijing Olympics, fears being nurtured about the future of hockey could be logical.
But the fourth edition of Premier Hockey League has helped allay such apprehensions to a great extent by unearthing a bunch of talented youngsters, who have it in them to take the game to a new level.
Underdogs Hyderabad Sultans, packed with promising players, countered every challenge with courage to make the PHL semifinals and gave a strong outfit like Chandigarh Dynamos, filled with star players, a run for their money before accepting the defeat.
The team was certain to be relegated after last year's poor showing and was retained in the tournament only after the Indian Hockey Federation realised that in the Olympic preparatory year they don't have much time to make a lot of changes and bring in a new side.
Sultans side is made mainly of youngsters with hugely talented mid-fielder Sardara Singh as the captain.
The budding talents used their skills, abilities and guts not only to stun their opponents but also to win hearts.
Apart from Sardara, defenders like Samir Baxla and Anand Tirkey, gifted drag-flicker Diwakar Ram and dashing forwards Pramod Kumar and Cheeyana (both of Bangalore Hi-Fliers) played out of their skin to justify the federation's decision to give a break to the under-21 players before the crucial Olympic qualifiers in March.
While Sardara has already made his debut for India, others had also impressed with their consistent good showing at junior level.
In the eight-nation tournament in Germany last year, these players under coach A K Bansal had taken their opponents by surprise by winning all the group engagements before narrowly losing the semifinals and third place playoff to finish fourth.
Clean in their tackling and having the ability to recover quickly, Baxla and Tirkey are from the traditional hockey heartland of Orissa and know their business in the best possible manner.
So is Uttar Pradesh's Diwakar Ram, who is improving everyday to become a solid defender. The major skill of Diwakar, however, is his incisive and accurate drag-flicks and all eyes are fixed on him as India badly needs a strong army of penalty corner experts.
Pramod, another player from Uttar Pradesh, has made rapid strides as far as going that extra mile to graduate from junior ranks to the senior team is concerned.
His deft stick work, rocket like movement upfront and powerful hits have made him the cynosure of every eye.
Seen as a great prospect to serve the Indian forward-line, the striker possesses a lot of stamina. Throughout the PHL IV, he played for full 70 minutes and performed exceptionally well to torment the rival defenders.
Chennai boy Cheeyanna is also another forward with a lot of promise and has shown flashes of his brilliance in the tournament so far.
Last year before embarking on the tour of Germany, junior India coach Bansal was very confident of his wards' abilities and now he can afford a big smile of satisfaction that his talent-hunt mission is bearing fruits.
"It is heartening to see all these young players perform like this. It's a good sign for Indian hockey. We don't have any dearth of talents and the only need is to hone their skills properly," he said.