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Goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan was brilliant

Vasudevan Bhaskaran | August 27, 2003 19:07 IST
Last Updated: August 27, 2003 19:20 IST

Vasudevan BhaskaranThe 25th Champions Trophy may have seen a dramatic change in the fortunes of the Indian hockey team, but there were some players who excelled with their brilliance and consistency. Goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan, no doubt, was the best Indian player during the tournament. He has proved to be one of the finest goalkeepers in the world and will keep improving.

I had spotted Chauhan during the Bangalore Junior nationals in 1999. Fortunately I was with IHF president K P S Gill to see the talent of this young boy. From then on, Chauhan has reached this height purely on the basis of his hard work and willingness to learn. This has made him represent the country at the Sydney Olympics, World Cup and the Asian Games at the tender age of 22. It has been an astounding progress for the youngster.

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Chauhan had conceded a few goals which he could have stopped during the last Champions Trophy in Cologne, but in this edition he was brilliant right through the tournament. He has improved his goalkeeping considerably and is a tower of strength for the team. He will be an asset for the team in the years to come.

Jugraj Singh is another player who has improved considerably in recent times and had some good moments during the elite six-nation tournament. He has not only improved his field game, but has also curtailed his rough tackling. He defended the penalty-corners with authority. His emergence is good for Indian hockey as many young fans may want to follow this youngster.

Gagan Ajit Singh, Prabhjot Singh and Deepak Thakur also excelled in their departments. The Indian team needs more such young players who have the energy, eagerness and the spirit to excel.

But, overall, the Indian combination was not at its best. Maybe, the Indian team did not move smoothly in their passes and the strategy between the deep defenders and midfielders left much to be desired. Though coach Rajinder Singh must have definitely planned his strategy, it was not executed by the players in most of the matches. This may be due to the fact that the other teams put more pressure on the midfield which was the strength of the Indian team. The team thus succumbed to pressure time and again.

I thought the performance of young Kanwalpreet Singh, Viren Rasquinha, Bimal Lakra and Ignace Tirkey was extremely disappointing. They all possess excellent qualities but somehow failed to deliver the goods in such an important tournament.

If these players can realise on their own as to why they played so badly, it will be good for the team. It is high time the players learnt to handle pressure in such big tournaments. I think there are some issues which need to be addressed immediately if the hockey authorities want to bring about an improvement in the standards. Poor Rajinder Singh had no man-management support during the tournament. All the teams have such a support system team but sadly the Indians don't have it.

I suppose we should have a separate coach whose job should be to collect material on the other team's strategy and pass them on to the chief coach. A hockey manager, who will be making the arrangements for team camps and logistics, a doctor, a physical trainer and a physiotherapist must accompany the team. The Australians are following this method for the last ten years and it is a permanent structure.

It is also high time we have a video man, who shoots all the matches and provides the clippings to the coach immediately after the match. The coach can discuss the lapses with the players. This will help the players rectify their mistakes.

Since the team has a big sponsor in 'Sahara', it should be an easier task for the team to put in place such a back-up team from this year.

I have also come across a statement from an IHF official in Amstelveen hinting at the appointment of a foreign coach. It was totally ill-timed. When the team is in the middle of a tournament, such statements undoubtedly put further pressure on the coach. There is always a better time and place for talking about such important issues.

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