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'Indian hockey is down on tactics'
Juan Pablo Escarre | February 16, 2005 18:42 IST
During the just-concluded Premier Hockey League, Juan Pablo Escarre wasn't the 35-year-old, experienced player and captain of the Champions Trophy-winning team. The Spaniard looked more like a child lost in the midst of organized chaos.
Playing for the Chennai Veerans, Escarre was supposed to bail the largely inexperienced side out of trouble. But he was often stranded in midfield as the players ran up and down the pitch, rarely sticking to their positions. The result: Escarre failed to make any impact as his team ended up last in the five-team league.
The Spain captain spoke to rediff.com about his experience of playing in the inaugural Indian league.
The team was very nice with me; it was like family. I enjoyed with all the players. There is a lot of difference with the hockey they play in India and the hockey we are used to playing in Spain. Also, the position they played me in was different. I was used as a forward. I have played as a forward but that was a long time ago.
I also feel happy that we won the match against Hyderabad [Sultans]. Ours was a very young team; I don't think it was balanced with the other sides. The problem was the first two matches, where we did very badly.
A lot of things we used to do and then we work it out in the game; otherwise, it was just running and running. For a European player it is just watching.
When one person gets the ball everyone is running after it and coming back again. It was very difficult for me to adapt to the game because in Europe it is more about controlling the game and making passes. But, in the end, it was a good experience.
It was also a surprise for me that most of the players in India think too much about the money. For me hockey is a hobby. I used to play for free for my club for a long time. I came to India because I wanted to be here at the moment. It is a very important phase in Indian hockey.
The first day was difficult because I came to India to win. But when I looked at my team as against the other teams I thought it would be very difficult to win this tournament. I tried to help the younger players and tried to explain the small things, because you can't learn the game in one month. As they say, Rome wasn't built in one day. It is the same with the tournament.
You tell them, 'Keep the ball, move the ball in the defense.' And they ask me why, when we can attack. I told them take your time and learn it this way. You have to be responsible for keeping the ball. Possession in hockey is not an easy thing. When they are winning they scoop the ball and give the ball to the other team. This doesn't work.
I never saw skills these like these. They are some of the best players in the world. But that alone doesn't help. You need more things. The sport is physical, technical, tactical and mental. The last is the most important.
I hope the tournament does well. I don't know if the people will be talking about it the next week but it is a good idea to get the best players together for one month.
Maybe, the time-outs are good for television but it is not good for the players to stop and then play again. It should be four quarters; if you want to take time-out you take it or do not. It is yes or yes. You should not be forced to take time-outs.
The first two quarters you are playing very fast, but the next two quarters the energy goes down because the match is broken.
The format was good, but I think they changed the schedule when they knew that the winner would be decided between Hyderabad and [Sher-e] Jallandhar; they changed the order of the matches. This is not good, because then my team had to play two matches in two days. If you make one thing, you stick with it. Otherwise, you add semi-finals and a final.
You cannot change the order of the matches. When this happens you think this is business. It is not good for the players. I understand they want to commercialize the game but to keep the league going you need to keep the players happy.
The umpires have done well. Everybody is complaining about them but they also need some time to adjust to the format of the game.
I think everybody is talking about the not-too-important things. They try to find problems. When everything on the surface looks good they think, okay, let's look down here.
There has to be cohesion; some union if you want to be on the top. In Spain we don't have any problem. We have a pool of only 500 players, totally, and we are the winners of the Champions Trophy.
It was very good winning the Trophy. I don't have words to describe it. It was a great moment for Spanish hockey. We changed some players and had some youngsters. For me, as a captain, it was a special moment.
I tried my best to adapt to the hockey here in India. There were very good things and very bad things. There was contrast. In India they have the best of skills and strong hits, but, I must say, Indian hockey is down on tactics. They have to learn about the tactics of the game, about how to carry the game, how to defend one against one, how to defend like a team.
If the Indians do that they can be one of the best teams in the world.
Escarre shared his impressions on the PHL with Deepti Patwardhan