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Asia Cup triumph and after…

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HAPPY MOMENT: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi presenting the Asia Cup to Indian captain Prabodh Tirkey on Sunday. K. Jothikumaran, Secretary, IHF, looks on.
HAPPY MOMENT: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi presenting the Asia Cup to Indian captain Prabodh Tirkey on Sunday. K. Jothikumaran, Secretary, IHF, looks on.

S. Thyagarajan

India’s title win dispels the mood of cynicism

Chennai: Beyond congratulating the hockey players for retaining the Asia Cup, nothing should be done to fuel a sense of complacency. The 7-2 win against Korea on Sunday was significant, signalling a turning point. It generates a speck of hope, and dispels the mood of cynicism.

That India scored 57 goals in seven-in-a-row victory sequence is a positive development. Field goals were plenty, and this included all the seven scored in the final. This factor underlined the homogeneity of the attack, and the effective link among the frontline, mid-field and deep defence, not to leave out the exemplary role played by goal-keeper Baljit Singh.

After a long time, the highest goal-scorer was not a penalty corner expert but a frontline striker. Prabhjot Singh finished with a tally of 15 goals.

The outcome should be studied against the background of India’s uncertainty regarding an Olympic berth in Beijing. In all probability, India will have to qualify from the event scheduled at Auckland from February 2 to 10 next year. The earlier expectation that it might travel to Santiago for an easier pool did not materialise in view of Korea figuring in the final. Whatever points India had garnered from the triumph is insufficient to go beyond Argentina. However, a clearer picture on the qualifiers will emerge in a day or two once the FIH updates the rating.

There is some sobering thought among those who castigated, and continue to be carp upon India’s failure to grab a berth at Doha Asiad that even the reigning World Champion, Germany, faces the embarrassment of having to go through the qualification tournaments early next year. The Pan-American powerhouse, Argentina, is also in a similar plight.

Accolades

The accolades pouring in from various quarters, including the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, whose interest in hockey is well known, reflect the sense of fulfilment among the supporters to witness the Indian players displaying the essence and element of Asian ethos. A seasoned administrator, who witnessed the 1956 Olympics at Melbourne as a hockey player, even compared the quality that he saw in the then Indian team under the leadership of Balbir Singh (Sr).

Another heartening aspect is the re-kindling of interest among spectators whose turn out far exceeded expectations. More than 2000 fans had to be turned back on Sunday because of want space inside the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium, where security was understandably strict in view of the presence of the Chief Minister, Dr. M. Karunanidhi as the chief guest.

The IHF is duty bound to build on the positives and maintain the tempo at a higher octave. The possibility of hosting the Champions Trophy again in view of the troubled conditions in Pakistan should give the team additional matches as part of the preparations for the qualifier.

Joaquim Carvalho, the chief coach, captured the mood when he said that India must win whether it plays in Chile, New Zealand or Japan. That he has enormously succeeded in inculcating a feeling of self-belief among the players must be acknowledged.

Cash incentive

A cash incentive, meagre though by cricketing standards, will be a deserving recognition of the magnitude of the achievement. The IHF had announced that the team would get Rs. 1000 for every goal scored, and Rs. 2000 for each one conceded. A bigger reward is likely to come by in the next few days. Nothing can satisfy the fraternity more than a review of the decision to demote hockey to the general category by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

Two podium finishes — at Ipoh and Boom — and a trophy triumph in a space of less than six months in the biggest continental championship, are factors enough to prompt the Ministry to restore hockey in the list of priority category. This will go a long way in helping the administration to plan better for the qualifiers.

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