India’s No. 10 international ranking itself was a clear indication that they were never in medal contention at the Olympic Games here, but it was hard to believe that they would fail to win a single match, finishing at the bottom of the table.

This is India’s worst ever performance at the Olympics.

The fact that eight-time gold medallists India had not even entered the hockey semifinals for 32 years underscores the marginality of India in a sport in which they once were world beaters.

The non-performing Indian team has turned out to be a huge embarrassment at the Games. It caused utter disappointment among the supporters who turned up at the venue in large numbers, only to be disgusted by the fact that the Indian team did not even seem to be competitive.

The statistics of six successive losses do not tell the entire story. The apparent safety-first approach of several players on the field was a bigger disappointment than even the margins of defeats.

It was sad commentary on Indian hockey when chief coach Michael Nobbs said that some players seemed satisfied at having become Olympians, while a few others were striving to give their best for the country.

It takes years of a sportsperson’s life to get the right to represent the country in international sport, and more so in the quadrennial Games. The lack of desire to get into stiff on-field contests is a sad reflection of attitude.

A major overall in the team could be on the horizon, and screaming voices in India will ensure that this debacle may not be forgotten soon. After all, India’s prestige on the international stage is of utmost importance. But this may not be just about the players and their willingness, or unwillingness, to give their best on the pitch by getting into combative positions against physically superior rivals.

The Indian players were literally pushed off the ball at the Olympics, but then they did not always seem to be prepared to battle it out.

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