Despicable incompetence lets down fans

Among a handful of failures at the London Olympics, the performance of the Indian hockey team stands out as appallingly pathetic. Even the target of spot six has remained unachievable.

Talk shows featuring stars and the optimism generated by the media now sound exaggerated.

An apology, tinged with anguish, from the coach Michael Nobbs, appears the escape route to pre-empt calls for his sacking.

To be fair, Nobbs has refrained from blaming the weather or biased umpiring. Nor did he refer to an invisible hand to undermine India to protect the European hegemony. He questions the players’ commitment.

The nation’s disappointment at the disgraceful show is identical to what it was when India failed to qualify in 2008.

At the nadir

If that was historic so is London now. India will create ‘history’ by touching the lowest ever spot (11 or 12) since 1928. The previous lowest was eighth in 1996.

What can you expect from a squad that was deficient in defence, disoriented in attack and disgustingly inconsistent in the half-line.

Unable to sustain fluidity for less than a quarter of an hour in a contest, India tumbled from defeat to defeat to send passionate fans into a state of despair.

The hope after the fight-back against the Netherlands, the strongest in the pool, vanished against the Kiwis. Thereafter, it was a sequence of disasters with Korea heaping humiliation in the biggest theatre for the sport.

To blame anyone other than the players would be unfair. Everything was provided for them: adequate training, exposure to competitions in all climes and promise of generous rewards.

The Indians were wanting in every facet, particularly inside the circle. Any hint of pressure in the zone resulted in an error and led to penalty corners which they failed to defend. The goal-keeping was atrocious against Germany and did not improve significantly.

No one, including the king-pin, Sardar Singh, looked the part. Sandeep Singh flopped in penalty corners. Cohesion in the frontline was inconspicuous, contributing to numerous passes going to waste.

Persistent problems

Enumerating the flaws is frustrating. They should have been eliminated in training. These frailties have been plaguing us for decades. It matters little as to who the coach is.

Habituated as we are to viewing everything in a “so what, what next” syndrome, the obvious question is: where do we go from this forgettable odyssey?

Shortly, everything will be back to normal. The players who let the country down by their despicable incompetence will parade before cameras as if the fiasco was an aberration.

Calls for preparing for the Champions Trophy in December — many may wonder what yardstick did the FIH use to bring India into this prestigious competition — or the next World Cup at The Hague, will begin.

The unending polemics among the IOA, the Hockey India and the Indian Hockey Federation is poised for another round. Nothing, and nothing, is likely to change. For, there is no sense of shame among players, officials and administrators.

A fresh start can be effective only when the HI and the IHF are disbanded. A new administrative unit should be put in place without any from the two units claiming a berth of office. A similar move against the IOA will receive overwhelming public support.

It is painful that Indian hockey’s epitaph is to be etched in London where independent India won its first gold in 1948.

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