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V Bhaskaran

Mistakes of the past are being repeated

August 16, 2004

The irony of India's game against The Netherlands in their Olympic hockey tournament opener on Sunday was that all the three goals scored by the Dutch were not the outcome of a great display of hockey but due to lethargic defensive lapses of our players.

The Indian team, playing for the first time under a foreign coach, fielded Adrian D'Souza as goalkeeper in place of the regular Devesh Chauhan. Truly, this change was welcome and D'Souza proved to be up to the task.

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But the same cannot be said in favour of young drag flicker Sandeep Singh, who had a nightmare of a match. His costly lapses will not permit him to sleep peacefully for many nights. His inaugural appearance at the Olympics cost the Indian team dearly in the first two minutes when he gifted a pass to the Netherlands forward Marten Eikelboom, who readily devoured the chance to give his team the vital lead.

This error by Sandeep put pressure on the other newcomer in the side, Harpal Singh, and Ignace Tirkey. It helped The Netherlands tighten the noose further on India as they increased the lead to 3-0 by the last 15 minutes before emerging 3-1 winners and taking the vital three points from this match.

It is easy to criticize our team's performance, but the facts and figures have to be revealed so that the players quickly rectify the errors and go into the rest of the four games with a positive frame of mind.

As in the past, the same mistakes are being repeated by the defenders, thus costing us a medal at the Olympics.

The question is who should accept the blame for the simple, basic errors, which even a schoolboy learns immediately from. It is high time the players, especially the midfielders and deep defenders, became sure about their trapping which is the basic quality needed in present day hockey.

If you are not sound in this aspect, however good your team is, it will not be successful. I would say one should not be called an Olympian if he does not know the basics of the game.

On the contrary, The Netherlands defenders were very sound in reverse tackling and almost all the defenders challenged the Indian forwards whenever the situation demanded.

Our wing-halfs, especially Ignace Tirkey and Sandeep Singh, were not positioned properly and allowed the Dutch forward line to dominate all the moves and create many openings that put captain Dilip Tirkey under great pressure.

The wing-halfs should have played much deeper in defence and stuck to man-to-man marking as was exhibited by their counterparts.

Also, our mid-fielders -- Vikram Pillay and Viren Rasquinha -- tried hard for a breakthrough. But I fail to understand why frequent substitutions were made in the mid-field. The coach should have gone in for permanent mid-fielders rather than shuffling them frequently. This caused more space especially in the second-half which could have been avoided.

The only bright spots for India were the performances of Adrian D'Souza, Vikram Pillay and Dilip Tirkey. The Indian team management should quickly address the loopholes and start afresh for the next four games. This team still has a lot of fire and can bounce back to stake claim for the elusive medal.

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