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Dhanraj Pillay

Sad end to my Olympics

August 30, 2004

After suffering a series of defeats, we ended our Olympic campaign on a winning note. Beating South Korea 5-2 for the seventh position was a creditable performance since the Koreans won the silver medal in the last Olympics.

All the boys played well and unlike in the preliminary pool matches, converted the half chances that came their way. It helped us to take a 4-0 lead at half-time. The Koreans looked dejected though they made some attempts to come back in the second half. It looked as if we saved our best for the last.

Our boys played their hearts out. Gagan had a good game with his opportunistic goals and also played a big role behind the other goals. Our midfield made good inroads and had a better understanding with the forwardline. Adrian and captain Dilip again played very well and could handle the pressure against the hard-running Koreans. The Koreans, however, forced us to concede too many penalty-corners. Overall, the players put up a much better show as they had nothing much to lose in this tournament.

The going was not easy for India in this Olympics. Too many unnecessary issues and problems cropped up right from the Day One. Many of our players got injured and sometimes we had to play with just 13 players. We were victims of poor umpiring and were not able to convert the chances that came our way.

Worst, however, was that the observations and constructive criticism I made in my column during the Olympics, which I sincerely thought was for the betterment of the team, were termed as controversial and I once again found myself in the centre of controversy.

To set the record straight, I must say that I have been highlighting these issues to the team management since our training days in Germany. It was not that the authorities came to know about my views through my column only. I am not the one who likes to take things lying down and by now, the whole country knows how I felt about it. I call a spade a spade and that's why people in power cannot accept my opinions in the right spirit and try to present me in bad light.

As the senior-most player, who has 16 years of experience behind him, I think I have the ability and the right to say why the team is not performing and explain the reasons behind it in my own way. The management is welcome to defend their wrong decisions and run me down, but it will not help Indian hockey in the long run. To be honest, the team was united and we had no problems with each other. Let me inform you that most of the other players held similar opinion like me, but sensational news was made out of my column only.

Personally, I have done what I could do for India in this Olympics. I could have perhaps done better, but I think I fared much better than most of the others in the forwardline. Any one, who has some knowledge of the game, realised the difference I made when I took the field.

Even then, I found that I had a tough time getting into the first eleven for reasons best known to the team management. To add to this humiliation, I was made to sit out in my last game in Olympics. They made me feel that even Adam Sinclair was a better player. My farewell match in the Olympics ended on a bitter note, thanks to the team management who were already issuing press statements about my retirement.

Let me tell you that I will only decide on my next course of action after discussing it with my family when I return to India.

As far as this Olympics is concerned, it is all over for me and I feel extremely sad that it had to end in this manner. I had to sit and watch my farewell match from the bench. A similar thing happened to my idol, Mohammed Shahid, when he played his last Olympics. The world knew he was the best, but he could not find himself in the first eleven. I only pray that no other Indian player receives such treatment in future. Trust me, it really hurts.

Previous column: We messed up everything from day one

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