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V Bhaskaran

India let down by younger players

August 26, 2004

Asian arch-rivals India and Pakistan battled it out in the classification game, but Pakistan emerged winners on the strength of a better approach and with the right mix of Asian and European patterns.

Pakistan outplayed India in all departments, but the main credit should go to their midfielders, who gave excellent support to the deep defence as also the attack.

On the contrary, the Indian players once again failed to put up a good display in any of the departments and it appeared as if the willingness to fight was missing in them.

The only excuse India can give for their poor performance is that they had a depleted field, with several key players carrying injury, providing little option to coach Gerhard Rach to try out anything concrete at this stage.

But what I still fail to understand is how youngsters like Harpal Singh, Ignace Tirkey and Sandeep Singh, after playing five games in this competition, kept repeating the same mistakes yesterday also.

The urge to correct mistakes was non-existent and lack of contribution from the youngsters put extra pressure on the entire mid-field and deep defenders.

To me it is still a mystery why the youngsters have not put up a good show despite expensive exposure extended to them by the Indian Hockey Federation.

All the players should start thinking more about their performance and not about airing views to media on the coaching pattern, that too during the middle of the tournament.

It clearly showed that the focus of the players was not on the game and as a consequence their performance suffered.

It is high time the IHF took strong action against erring players; maybe they should a enter into a written contract with them, like in cricket, which would make the stars mind their business and also be more committed to the game.

I am sure that if the same mistake is committed by a player from any another nation he will not be allowed to don national colours again.

In yesterday's match, India looked lacklustre but managed to keep the scoreboard blank in the first half, thanks to yet another sterling performance from goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza, who saved four penalty corners which Pakistan earned in the session.

But the script changed in the second half when Pakistani forwards and midfielders drummed up a good rhythm and exploited the weaknesses of the Indian medios.

The Pakistani wingers concentrated on their attacks from both flanks and sent in some beautiful cross-passes.

The Pakistanis slowly built up pressure on the Indian defence and earned a free-hit in the 40th minute. Sohail Abbas pushed the ball into the Indian circle, which was beautifully deflected by Tariq Aziz into the goal with Harpal, who was close to Tariq, failing in his duty to snatch it away.

The goal acted like an elixir for Pakistan, who sensed the weakness of the Indian defence and played some brisk hockey.

For the first time in this tournament captain Dilip Tirkey lost his cool to end up conceding six penalty-corners.

Abbas converted one such short corner as he beat D'Souza with a powerful left push to make it 2-0.

Towards the end of the session, Pakistan stretched their lead to 3-0 from a long free hit from the right corner, with an unmarked Shabbir Mohammed finding the target, to practically seal India's fate.

Pakistan were worthy winners as they dominated the entire second half, giving little respite to the Indian defenders.

Though Vikram Pillay, Dhanraj Pillay and Viren Rasquinha worked hard, they failed to take even a single crack at the Pakistan goal.

Previous column: Adrian saved us the blushes

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