Something extraordinary was
M M Somaya
expected; not this!
India played a lot of indoor
hockey on the seventh day of the World Cup amid hectic
parleying, press briefings and off-the-cuff speculations. Coach Cedric D'Souza exit and return back home midway
through the tournament raising all the heat and a cloud of dust.
Something extraordinary was expected of the Indians
during this tournament but one definitely had not bargained
For Indian coaches, the parting of ways has always been a
bitter experience. Even Kaushik, the coach of the victorious
team to the Bangkok Asian Games in 1998, was shown the door
after the triumphant return of his team for no plausible
With the current team's performances nowhere near
expectations, the coach's performance would have to come under
the microscope. But there was always time to do the analysis and soul-searching after the team got back home and in the privacy of one's own den.
Outdoors, the hockey juggernaut rolled on. The usual
suspects making a beeline for the four semi-final berths. Australia and Korea are poised to make it from India's pool
while in the pool of death, Pakistan and Spain still stay in
the hunt, although the current trend favours Holland and Germany to go through.
What has really lifted this World Cup is the fighting
performance of hosts Malaysia, whose three wins have kept the
home fans' interest alive. The reverberation of the stadium
when the hosts take the field is a great expression of
national sentiment and a spectacle to behold.
India, sponsored by Castrol, logged their first win of the
tournament in their fifth outing against minnows Cuba
under elevated coach C R Kumar.
Choosing to continue with the 5-3-2 formation that they
had employed during the last part of the England match, the
Indians showed some fluency in attack.
Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh, at last, could be seen
playing with a bit of confidence and making their presence
felt. However, in defence there were yawning gaps and more
than once the Cubans came close to exploiting these.
Devesh Chauhan in goal did well to block a few efforts of
the Cubans and India were fortunate to keep a clean sheet.
Against a team like Australia who India play in their last
pool fixture this tactic of playing 5-3-2 could be perilous
given the Australian accuracy in front of goal.
Dilip Tirkey's strike off a direct penalty-corner and
Daljit Dhillon's smooth, indirect conversion ensured that the
absence of Jugraj Singh was not felt in that department.
In normal field play, Thirumalvalavan at centre-half,
continued to be far more effective than Jugraj and there was
the semblance of constructive play from the midfield.
Ignace Tirkey further strengthened his position at
left-half and should be persevered with. Deepak Thakur got the
team's third goal from a move down the right and skipper
Baljit Dhillon rounded off the tally for the Indians.
The Indian team should look for a
similar win against Poland in their next match as well.
Coach Kumar's limited use of the rolling substitution
enabled the players adequate time to find their rhythm.
Both India and Pakistan face this dilemma of effective
use of the rolling substitution rule. Going off the bench for
short bursts is as difficult an adjustment for the players as
is coming off the pitch to cool down.
It is, therefore, in the best interests of both teams that
this rule is used with discretion.
For India, it appears that this rolling substitution rule
has been extended to cover the team officials also. A new
coach and doctor during the course of the tournament bear
testimony to this.
Let's pray that discretion be applied while substituting
officials, at least.
M M Somaya was a member of the Indian hockey team at the Olympics of 1980, '84 and '88.
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