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September 29, 2000

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Don't despair, says Bhaskaran

Jaideep Singh in Sydney

Indian hockey may be down in the dumps for now but the future isnít bleak as the nucleus of the team has already been created, feels Indian coach Vasudevan Bhaskaran.

Even as the usual postmortem of the Indian teamís performance have already begun and people are contemplating that some senior members of the side should now call it a day, Bhaskaran isn't speaking a thing about what might transpire after the team returns to India.

Speaking after the 3-1 victory over Argentina clinched the team the seventh place - one above the eighth spot in the Atlanta Games - Bhaskaran felt there is no need to despair following the failure to make the semi-finals.

"The future isn't bleak as we have found the nucleus of a good side which should serve India for a long time," he said. "This chance has gone. We were so close to making the semifinals and go hunting for a medal.

"But we shouldnít despair --- the new lot of players should keep the Indian hockey challenge afloat."

The coach's words said it all. His Midas touch, which was the talk of world hockey circles until four days ago, was gone. The last Olympic gold medal-winning captain could only do so much. Destiny interrupted the Indian team's passage to the semi-finals.

Nothing went right from that moment. However, the Indian team management tried to the make the most of the minor placing playoffs by blooding youngsters and giving some rest to the weary seniors.

"The juniors needed to get extended outings and I've tried to do that in the past two days.

"We could have salvaged some pride by finishing among the top six but continued missing chances and lost to Britain."

Taking the seventh place brings no joy. India are out of the Champions Trophy and now also need to qualify for the 2002 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur.

Britain, which edged out India 2-1 Thursday, secured entry into both these competitions at India's expense. Britain took the last of the World Cup qualifying spots available from the Olympic Games and India will now look at the next year's qualifying competition in Edinburgh.

The tale of missed chances and the sequence of the once world hockey power having to make the elite competitions through qualifying rounds continued hand in hand.

There's speculation about the coach making way for someone else, as India has for several years been making noise about getting a foreign coach. That sequence is again beginning even before the team leaves for India. For tonight, though, the boys have got a day out to visit the Darling Harbour. But there's going to be no party. There's no cause for celebration.

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