Is Indian hockey at last coming out of the woods, after making the headlines for the wrong reasons like a succession of foreign coaches sent packing by high-handed administrators? There seems to be hope yet after the Indian hockey team’s bronze in the World Hockey League tourment. After 35 long years, an Indian hockey team has figured among the medals; the last such success goes back to 1982 when India won the Champions Trophy. There are some encouraging takeaways for the Indian team in its latest showing in a world-class event. The team displayed a refreshing self-confidence to take on and beat strong outfits like the British and the Dutch. Sardara Singh and his merry men also showed a high level of fitness, which has been a bugbear for earlier teams from the country. But consistency remains a problem, as coach Roelant Oltmans has been repeatedly pointing out, along with his exhortation that India needs to make a habit of winning the big games. In the quarter-fils of the World Hockey League, India defeated Britain 2-1, defending stoutly in the closing minutes. But the same team was off colour in the semis, losing to Belgium 1-0. Then came the rip-roaring playoff for the bronze medal against the Netherlands, where India pumped in five goals after trailing 0-2 at half-time, only to see the Dutch equalise five seconds before the hooter. Fortutely, the Indians prevailed in the il-biting pelty shootout despite missing the first shot. Experts have pointed out that faulty trapping, giving away loose balls in its own half and failing to win pelty corners near the opponent’s goal are still major kinks left to be ironed out before Team India makes a strong bid for the 2016 Rio Olympics, for which it secured a berth after the Asian Games gold in Incheon.
Chak de India