India not even playing for pride
M M Somaya
Four 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
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
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
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.
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