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 March 2, 2002 | 1500 IST

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India not even playing for pride

M M Somaya

M M SomayaFour matches without a win on the board. Not many teams keep India company with this unenviable record at the World Cup. And not many will, since almost all of them at this level play to a plan and have the discipline to stick to it through every moment of every match.

Between sparks of cohesive brilliance, the Indians fade away into a typical lapse of concentration and before you can bat an eyelid the opponents are cantering away with the game, leaving the Indians in desperate and unsuccessful pursuit.

It was common knowledge that England's strength lay in its breakaway raids and the competence at penalty-corner conversions. India needed to plug these and be the aggressor from the word go.

While restricting the England team to five penalty-corners was fine, the defence of these awards was far from satisfactory.

The second conversion by Tom Bertram, in particular, slipped into the goal under the body of the goalkeeper as he attempted to lay prostrate on the ground. In the first conversion too Danny Hall was not closed down fast enough by the runners coming off the goal line.

The other goal, England's second of the match, a field attempt by Danny Hall came almost before India had completed celebrating Tirkey's equaliser through a penalty-corner.

The loss of focus by India immediately on securing the equalising goal is inexcusable at this level and England encashed it smartly.

The Indian starting line-up at last had Thirumalvalavan playing at his regular position at centre-half and Ignace Tirkey manning his familiar left-half berth.

With Kanwalpreet Singh starting as full-back too, all seemed fine as far the line-up was concerned. The rolling substitutions were also restricted and done with a view to give the players time to settle in.

While the Indian defence performed well to some extent, they allowed the England forwards the extra yard to receive the ball from deep clearances.

It was agonising to see the England forwards, Ben Sharpe and Danny Hall in particular, receive the ball from their defence. Closing the opponent down by marking him shoulder to shoulder so that the move doesn't even start is extremely important while playing teams like England.

By failing to do this India allowed the pressure to come back and forced them to back-pedal, allowing their opponents off the hook.

Yet again the goals that India conceded were not outstanding efforts which left them chasing the game, a familiar story in this tournament.

With Jude Menezes not having the best of tournaments, the younger Devesh Chauhan ought to be given a longer look in. Goalkeeping is a confidence thing and it is evident that Jude has not been exactly on a high.

Now with the pressure of qualifying gone it is time young guns like Chauhan are given more of a feel of hockey at this level.

Constant exposure to Deepak Thakur, Prabhjot Singh, Bipin Fernandes and Arjun Halappa during this World Cup would ensure that in future they would stand up and be counted.

In the match against England too these Junior World Cup stars only made up the numbers, flitting in and out of the ground with no meaningful contributions.

In attack, only the tried and tested duo of Pillay and skipper Baljit Dhillon carried the load and created most of the Indian openings. Baljit Saini and Daljit Dhillon, in patches, also did chip in with useful contributions. It was the skipper himself who flicked home from a penalty-corner after Tirkey had driven home a similar award earlier.

Coach Cedric D'Souza's move, in the second session, to play the 5-3-2 formations was the last roll of the dice and a shift in his strategy. This too could not propel the Indians, sponsored by Castrol, to their first win in the tournament.

The Indians are surely not playing for a place in the semis but sadly they are not even playing for pride. The will to win is yet to surface.

M M Somaya was a member of the Indian hockey team at the Olympics of 1980, '84 and '88.

More reports from the World Cup
India waste 'stroke', lose to Malaysia
Early goals put pressure on India: Cedric
Pakistan, Australia win easily
Spain shock Germany
England hammer Cuba 7-0
Netherlands and Argentina cruise to easy win

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