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Short breathers to key players made the difference
August 23, 2003
India played one of their best matches in the Champions Trophy hockey tournament and beat Pakistan by a 7-4 margin. The Indians proved all their critics wrong and, in the bargain, handed their arch-rivals one of their worst ever drubbings.
After Friday's victory, and the manner in which it was achieved, it would be interesting to have a quote from Mr. K Jothikumaran, the secretary of the Indian Hockey Federation, who hinted about hiring a foreign coach after the team lost to Argentina.
Haven' t we heard such comments being made so often? Interestingly, the call for change of coach comes into the open even before the team has completed its engagements. It happened with Zafar Iqbal when he was coach of the team for the Asian Games. Then came the famous episode when Cedric D'Souza was dumped midway through the last World Cup in Kuala Lumpur.
I understand if a coach is paid handsomely and has not been delivering at all. But to make statements like the one Jyothikumaran made is absurd. In fact, few may be aware that all our coaches have come forward and take charge of the national team out of sheer interest. Yet they are humiliated when the team fails in one big tournament as the IHF fails to take note of the fine work done the months before.
Hats off to coach Rajinder Singh for having brought out the best from his boys with this wonderful victory over Pakistan despite all the criticism he had to face before the game. Usually when two of the top European teams, that is Holland and Germany, play each other there is tremendous excitement in the air, but the flair, artistry and the heart-warming moves are witnessed only in a game between the Asian arch rivals, Pakistan and India.
In modern day hockey, very rarely do you see a side play an attacking game for all 70 minutes, because it knocks the wind out of one. But Friday's game saw both teams maintain the same scorching pace right through. In my opinion, the short breathers Rajinder gave all his key players made all the difference. It helped them return with that added vigour. This is something I have been harping about, as it brings about the desired result.
Bimal Lakra has improved leaps and bounds in his tackling and controlling of the midfield. But he has to learn to release the ball at the right time and with the right pace. He tends to use the same pace for every pass. He is keen to improve and I am sure he realized the follies he made in the first half. His wrong pass in the midfield led to a counter attack and Nadeem scored to put Pakistan ahead 2-0. Later, after Jugraj had reduced the margin 1-2 with his drag flick off a penalty-corner, Bimal was again found 'bird watching' in the 'D' instead of marking Mudaasar Ali closely. Mudassar gleefully made good use of the space offered to him and the lead was increased to 3-1.
India's hero of the day, Jugraj Singh, converted the second penalty corner to make it 2-3. The youngster was the hero not because of the two short corner goals he scored, but also because he initiated the fourth goal by overlapping beautifully at the right time to put Deepak Thakur in possession. Of the resultant pass from Thakur, Prabhjot Singh scored.
But if there was a prize for the man of the match, there would have been a tie for the award between Jugraj and Gagan Ajit Singh, who scored two awesome backhanded goals to give India a two-goal lead at a very crucial part of the game and make the score 6-4.
The seventh goal too was a beauty. Dhanraj Pillay received the ball on the right and ran with lightning speed and control to find Prabhjot, who in turn relayed it to Thakur to score.
India have done Australia a favour by beating Pakistan, as a draw in their last game against dark horses Argentina, will see them through to the final. Another important development is if Australia thrashes Argentina, and wins by a three-goal margin, India could well be in the race for a bronze medal again and meet Pakistan again.
The other scenario, which cannot be ruled out, is Argentina making the final if they upset Australia. Then India will have to settle for fifth-sixth place. Isn't it interesting? But that's what Champions Trophy is all about!
- Defense was wanting again
- Pillay Dhillon need to be rested
- Midfield solidity needed
- Top three finish possible
- A lesson in hockey
- Mervyn Fernandis represented India at the 1980, '84 and '88 Olympics. He also captained India at the junior World Cup in Versailles, France, in 1979.