P.K. Ajith Kumar
KOZHIKODE: Vasudevan Baskaran believes there is hope yet for Indian hockey, the debacle at the Doha Asian Games notwithstanding.
"We will bounce back," the Indian coach, who was in Thalassery recently, told The Hindu. "We failed at Doha, yes, but we had just one bad game against China."
He admitted the defeat India's first ever to China in 10 meetings was perhaps the lowest point of his career. "We shouldn't have lost that game," he lamented. "That spoilt our chances at the Asian Games. I was, however, really impressed with the way the young V. Raghunath performed right through in Doha."
Baskaran was the man who led India to the gold at the Moscow Olympics in 1980. What has gone terribly wrong the Indian hockey since then?
"I feel the players today don't play with as as we used to," he said. "You have to put something extra when you play for the country; you have to do that in whichever sport you play. And the players should be willing to learn from their defeats."
He said it was too early to write the Indian team off. "We may not be among the world's top five at the moment, but we definitely have the potential to be. My immediate aim is to get the team back into top five."
He admitted he had quite a task on his hand, especially qualifying for the Olympics. "We have to prepare well for the qualifiers."
He said he was impressed with the young talent in the country. "I am confident about the future of hockey in India. But I feel a coach should be given a fair run; constant changing of coaches wouldn't help the team much."
A trained coach, Baskaran said the country needed more qualified coaches at the domestic level. "I would only be too happy to help our coaches, time permitting," he said.
He doesn't believe the popularity of the game hasn't come down in India despite the poor show of the National team. "Of course hockey can't compete with cricket, but if you look at the domestic scene, you could see more people coming to watch hockey than cricket. Look at how many people have turned up for a South Zone match here," he said pointing out the crowd at the Municipal Stadium in Thalassery.
He feels PHL is the best thing to have happened for Indian hockey in recent time. "That has put hockey back in the limelight," he said. "There is a lot of media attention and good crowds come to watch the matches."