A quick survey of phase one of the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup tournament shows an alarming degree of mediocrity creeping into club hockey. With recruitment of fresh talent either stopped or drastically reduced, even top institutions’ strength has been depleted.

Nothing mirrors this more than the failure of a glamour outfit like Air India. Even teams like IOC and BPCL, which at one point had the majority of national pool in their tanks, looked stale both in style and approach. True, a few stars like Deepak Thakur of IOC and Ignace Tirkey of Army did corner some attention. But overall it was a dismal picture.

The quality also suffered due to the poor state of the turf at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium. However, there is news to cheer for the fraternity as the pitch is slated for replacement by the end of the year.

It is a fact that no sports facility, created for the SAF Games held in 1995, has been put to such constant use. The venue was also the platform for five star championships under the supervision of the International Hockey Federation.

The authorities charged with relaying the turf should go the whole hog and attend to every aspect of its construction from strengthening the base to perfecting the drainage system.

Eager expectancy

There is eager expectancy in the air as the 2013 edition awaits the climax on Sunday. What has warmed the cockles of many a heart is Indian Overseas Bank’s semifinal entry. The local outfit richly deserves this.

The attack, spearheaded by the seasoned Adam Sinclair with Vinod Rayar and Shanmugam as able allies, was as attractive as it was authoritative.

International Rupinder Pal Singh, Aman Lakra and Muthuselvan cornered a lot of attention but none more than goalkeeper Sreejesh. He is the trump card for IOB.

Punjab National Bank, which takes on IOB in the second semifinal on Saturday, earned plaudits for its effective performance. Mid-fielder Ajitesh Roy was prominent in almost every encounter.

The contest between the oil giants — IOC and BPCL — in the first semifinal defies prediction. Both include a plethora of international stars. But taking into account the show of class displayed by Deepak Thakur the pendulum can well swing in favour of IOC, who was joint winner last year.

There is genuine hope that the semifinals on Saturday will elevate the quality to a new level of delight. It is for the teams to fulfil this expectation.

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