The script remains unaltered. Every other thing — coaches, administrators, players, et al — has changed, but not the trauma of last minute defeats for India.

The displays in the current hockey World Cup only testify to this.

India lost to Belgium and England from a position of strength.

The 2-3 reverse against Belgium came less than half a minute before the final whistle. It was a repeat against England on Monday.

How frustrating these verdicts are for the coaches and to the millions of viewers cannot be described.

Incomprehensible

It is still incomprehensible why it occurs with unfailing regularity regardless of who is at the helm of coaching.

Is it from lack of fitness, stamina, psychological mind warp, or sheer absence of a plan to cope with the last minute pressure?

India was anything but impressive against Belgium.

Despite this it managed to equalise, forge ahead, and then concede one to level.

But it was winkled out 47 seconds from finish. For the major part,

India was overwhelmed by the Belgians’ pace, precision and persistence.

The gutsy Sreejesh along with Raghunath and Sardar kept the opponents at bay.

India’s attack was rarely in the picture. It has been a flop in both matches.

The forwards appear nowhere near the class to be in this high voltage competition. Sunil’s approach makes one wonder how he made the grade.

Everyone speaks of Mandeep Singh in an adulatory refrain. But he plays more by instinct than with intelligence or imagination.

Overall, the lacklustre frontline has caused enormous damage.

Added to this comes the poor penalty corner conversion. India made a hash of a handful against England.

Rupinderpal Singh regarded as the best flicker was neither confident nor accurate.

Giant leap

Predictably, only a giant leap in the forthcoming matches against Spain, Malaysia and Australia can keep India afloat. Full points against Spain and Malaysia lie within the realm of possibility given their showing so far.

The defending champion Australia has steamrolled Malaysia and Spain. Nothing seems to be in its way to reach the top in Pool ‘A’.

The spectre of the 1986 World Cup in Willesden (London) and the 2012 Olympics (London) where India finished 12th flickers across the mind from the way this edition is shaping for India.

Every enthusiast is striving hard to resist such thoughts as the team lines up to take on Spain on June 5.

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