The target for Terry Walsh in the hockey World Cup was one spot below eighth. India’s coach nursed no delusions.

But the eventual ninth place has triggered off a debate. The ritual of constituting a panel for analysing the performance is on. But that is only deflecting the issue.

Admittedly, there is disappointment. But the tendency to blame the coaches should be eschewed. Instead, it is time to introspect and view the overall picture, and identify areas for improvement.

A blend of positives and negatives has emerged.

Among the positives are the sparks of proficiency. India played three top European outfits, enjoying, albeit briefly, a clear chance of winning. It was close against Belgium, England and Spain.

Among the three Asian outfits, India was the best, outclassing Malaysia (12th) and South Korea (10th).

It was the astonishing performances from goalkeeper Sreejesh that helped India narrow the gap with the others. Sardar Singh personified class, calibre and creativity as a leader. He was the cynosure in every match.

The favourable pointers must, however, not overshadow the deficiencies. Inconsistency was the major discordant note. The unpredictability was baffling.

All the reverses occurred in the dying minutes owing to avoidable tactical errors. A noticeable weakness was the link among the layers. The frontline lacked rhythm, and there was also an evident imbalance, with hardly two or three players living up to the demands.

The rest were mired in mediocrity. The much-hyped area of penalty corners by Rupinder and Raghunath proved just that. One wonders how they are different from the deficiencies perceived in Sandeep Singh’s approach.

The administration needs to resist the temptation of subjecting the coaches to a public inquisition. It must instead pave the way for them to spread the net wider for recasting the squad.

The goal should be for a podium finish at the Commonwealth Games, and the gold at Incheon.

Debating the dead past will do nobody any good. Even top-ranked Germany, England and Belgium had to stay away from the podium.

Realism, not recrimination, is the need of the hour.

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