Hockey in India no longer enjoys the following it once had. It is not even our tiol game that many believed to be so, after the Union ministry of Youth Affairs issued a clarification to this effect in 2012 in reply to an RTI query. But the ‘chak de India’ feeling is firmly back after the Indian hockey team’s gutsy silver in the Champion’s Trophy. Slated to be phased out from 2018, this was the penultimate edition of the tourment held in London — in which India emerged as the surprise package. After a bronze way back in 1982, this was for the first time India was playing in a Champion’s Trophy fil. And the Indian team made it a memorable affair, that too against the redoubtable Australians whom they held to a goalless draw in regulation time, only to lose agonizingly in the tie-breaker by 1-3 margin. Maybe the Indians had not bargained for a pelty shootout, which turned controversial with Australia scoring from the second pelty, which it had been allowed to re-take on the grounds of obstruction even after the hooter had sounded. But apart from this sour note, the Indian team can take much heart from its rousing displays throughout the tourment. They drew with dethroned champions Germany, beat hosts Great Britain and South Korea, lost to Belgium and Australia to take second position on points in the league stage. What is more, India played the fil a day after losing to Australia 2-4 in their last league outing. The Aussies have for long been India’s bugbear, handing out thrashings as late as this year at the Sultan Azlan Cup hockey fils by 4-0 and at the World League semi-fils by 6-2 margins. So it was a revelation to see the Indians enjoying possession, controlling the midfield, attacking and defending with equal flourish, counter-attacking on the turn and getting several look-ins at the Aussie goal on Friday. That the Aussies failed to convert as many as ten pelty corners speaks volumes of the strong defensive structure coach Roelant Oltmans has fashioned in the Indian team, with goalkeeper-captain PR Sreejesh and central defender VR Raghuth absolutely outstanding. For far too long, the Indian hockey team has been getting a bad press with a series of coaches coming and going. Coach Oltmans has been different, given his encouraging track-record as high-performance technical director of the team. He has worked on the attitude and fitness of the players, the good results of which were in evidence in the Champion’s Trophy outing. Despite being a young team with senior players like Sardar Singh, Ramandeep Singh and Rupinderpal Singh rested, the players oozed self-belief and ran the field tirelessly from end to end. Efforts to build up the team’s bench strength seems to be paying off, though the old weaknesses in trapping and pelty corner conversion need to be sorted out in the run up to the Rio Olympics. The hopes of the country are higher of an Olympic medal after the Champion’s Trophy showing, but it is high time we give some credit to the Indian Hockey League. Organized by Hockey India and into its fourth season, this league is giving invaluable opportunities to upcoming Indian players to train, play and learn alongside the world’s best hockey talents. This is paying off for the Indian team as well, with its magement now showing a welcome commitment to drafting young blood. Indians need to follow and patronize their hockey league as much as they do for their cricket league.
Indian Hockey revival