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Constant chopping and changing have had a disastrous effect

S. Thyagarajan

Chennai: What next is an inevitable question after India touched its nadir in the Champions Trophy. And the response is bound to be mixed: bitterness, despair and anguish at no sign of resurgence.

While the administration is clueless in identifying what needs to be done to the system which is steadily disintegrating into an incurable malaise, an in-depth study into the factors that contribute to such a state repeatedly must be examined.

For its part, the IHF believes that it did everything possible: training, coaching and facilities.

For coach Rajinder Singh (Jr), it turned out to be a complete failure. To his ever-growing list of detractors, the outcome gives enough ammunition to fire at the top brass and portray it as indifferent and inefficient.

What is needed the courage to experiment and look for fresh inputs. Demanding a change of coach, captain, players and the regime will do little to stem the rot that is believed to have set in.

Foreign observers and coaches are disappointed by the results India has achieved in recent years though they are convinced about the talent available here.

What they cannot understand is the system — or the lack of it — which is unable to forge the talent into a winning unit. There is no problem with the fitness level too, as the manner in which the team matched the Netherlands till the final minute testified.

Close encounters

A close scrutiny of the matches played in the Champions Trophy reveals that India was involved in three tight games against Spain, Germany and Netherlands. The only heavy defeat came against Australia.

Exposing his limitations to sit down and make a logical analysis, Rajinder keeps harping on missed chances and injuries. It is not known why the administration is reluctant to ease him out or at least hire a foreign consultant to assist him if he is considered indispensable.

True, the remedy does not lie in sacking the coach. The choice is anyhow limited after so many have been appointed over the years and left with a bad name too. What is required is a change in attitude.

The first step is to make a study of the efficacy of long duration camps. For over 30 years now, the system has remained the same. Camps that last for months probably do more harm than good. Why not have just a 10-day camp before competition? After all, our players are on the field almost throughout the year for some reason or the other. This means that they are in shape and possibly become injury prone only during such long camps. That Rajinder put no less than five players on the injured list before the last tie against Pakistan is a sad commentary indeed.

The constant shuffling has also had a disastrous effect. The best available pool of 25 players is enough to last at least two years. Four players in the Netherlands team were also there nine years ago. That they have been around for more than a decade reflects the persistence shown by the Dutch.

Chopping spree

The desperation to win something has forced the administrators into a chipping and chopping spree. Such attempts to silence a few vocal critics have made the situation more complex. The 18 players picked for the Champions Trophy were the best available with the exception of one or two who are still on the sidelines.

In a nutshell, the team must be allowed to settle down, the players should understand each other and allowed to play together till they start clicking as a unit. There are also areas that need to be drastically improved.

First and foremost is the frontline which has to be made sharper. With the exception of Tushar Khandekar, no one else looked dangerous. Putting Gagan Ajit Singh, Rajpal, Raja or Arjun Halappa on the chopping block is, however, no solution. It has to be said that quite a few promising players in the 21-25 age bracket, like Sandeep Michael, went out of the reckoning for no apparent reason.

Lastly, sinking into a mood of despondency will do no good. Instead, it will be better to address the problems in a practical manner.

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