Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: A disappointed M.K. Kaushik, chief coach of the Indian women’s hockey team, conceded that the girls did not play their best as the team finished fourth in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Kazan, Russia.

India was expected to find the United States as the major stumbling block but lost to Netherlands Antilles and Belgium as well before surrendering to the US. India did start with a win over Russia and wound up with a 7-0 triumph over France, but that was no consolation.

“Our senior players did not play the same standard of hockey that they had played in the World Cup and the Asian Games,” said Kaushik who returned with the team from Russia in the early hours of Tuesday.

The coach stressed that there was a limit to what could be achieved in the 40 days when he took over. He added that the players were not only found wanting physically but also did not have the tough mental attitude to tackle a challenge of such magnitude.

“The team did not have adequate exposure and our preparation was much less when compared to the US,” he said.

Kaushik said that the unexpected defeats at the hands of lower ranked teams like Belgium and Netherlands Antilles was because of the lack of basic good habits on the field in the Indian squad.

“Inspite of Rick Charlesworth telling the team and pointing out mistakes in video sessions, the girls failed to execute what was expected of them. We can’t really blame them totally as they need to be toughened with a lot of matches against good teams abroad,” he added.

Touching on the controversy generated following the publication of the confidential report filed by the government nominee, Rupa Saini, in a section of the media, Kaushik said that he had a say only in pruning the list from 30.

“We had to select 18 from the 30. We don’t have abundance of talent. We had no option. Of course, we do need to ensure that the injured players return only after thorough rehabilitation,” said Kaushik.

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