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 March 9, 2002 | 1530 IST

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Kumar blames Cedric for India's failure

India's new hockey coach C R Kumar blames former coach Cedric D'Souza for India's disastrous performance in the tenth World Cup, which concludes in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday evening, saying D'Souza did not implement the plans made before key matches.

"We discussed certain plans, including having players in positions they were comfortable with, in a meeting prior to the match against Korea, but once the game began, we found that Cedric did not implement the plans, and we lost," Kumar told UNI in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday morning.

He said the pressure naturally mounted on the players as well as Cedric.

"The IHF," he added, "told him [D'Souza] to step aside and let me handle the team for a couple of matches. He thought he was being sacked and left. It was a most unfortunate incident."

Citing the initial shock defeats as the reason for India's disastrous performance in the World Cup, Kumar, who took over after the dramatic departure of D'Souza midway through the tournament, said the team is capable of "beating any side in the world".

"We came to Kuala Lumpur with high hopes and spirits. But after the disastrous draw with Japan in the first game, our players could not recover in time; the three defeats thereafter was a further blow to the morale of the players," he said.

Asked about the sudden improvement in the team's showing after the fourth match, he was quick to add: "After Cedric left, we allowed the boys to play in positions they were familiar with and where they had been playing for many years. So, our performance picked up immediately."

India had drawn 2-2 with Japan in the first match of the league, then lost 1-2 to Korea, 2-3 to Malaysia and England, before beating Cuba 4-0.

Kumar said the victory over Poland was significant because they had held India to a draw at the Sydney Olympics and in the process denied "us a place in the semi-finals".

"Under the circumstances, the 4-1 result was extremely good for us," he said.

"We played extremely well against Australia, but conceded a couple of soft goals which eventually led to our 3-4 defeat."

Regarding the pre-tournament hype and expectations, Kumar said, "Our training in Ipoh went off very well. The local public thought we had a good chance to reach at least the semi-finals."

He felt the high expectations put the players under pressure. "When we drew with Japan, they thought we had lost the tournament. The morale was low and three other defeats thereafter, only made matters worse," he added.

Talking about the classification matches, for 9-12 positions, Kumar said the team played very well against Spain, who they beat 3-0. "Here, too, we played an outstanding game in the first-half. We played attacking hockey right through and won comfortably."

But he had nothing to say when asked about the 1-2 loss to New Zealand on Friday which saw India finish tenth in the tournament.

"We took an early lead against New Zealand, but they put pressure on us in the second-half and equalised. The team became too defensive and our forwards lost confidence in the defence. So, that brought more pressure on us and they scored another goal to win the match," he said.

Looking at the bigger picture, Kumar felt that the team has a lot of potential. "We are capable of beating any team in the world. But we should have the right person for the right job, have the right players in the right positions," he added.

He said the team would be returning home in batches, with some taking the flight out on Saturday night and the rest on Sunday.

Mail Sports Editor

Also read:

D'Souza to return immediately
The naked truth about my return home

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