Hockey

Confusing contours of selections

How do you clear the contradictions and get competitive hockey back on the rails?

There is a filament of repetition in this query; but the answer is not forthcoming. With just a little over a month left for the Commonwealth Games, projected more for its negative factors, Indian hockey is hovering in the valley of mess and misgivings.

With the national pool remaining at nothing more than a mere 30-odd group of players, the selection for the CWG and the Asian Games is but a painful rigmarole; a shuffle of the pack, adding a few and dropping some without rhyme or reason. That is what the ex-Olympians of the grass hockey era have done. Bereft of logical thinking, the teams selected for various tournaments in the last two years gained little from the tours undertaken at enormous expense.

Why the selectors rejected the request of the chief coach, Jose Brasa, to have the seasoned players for the four-nation event at Hamburg, and subsequent European tour, is difficult to comprehend. If, as claimed, the composition was dictated by the desire to blood youngsters, then how come all the senior stars are back now.

Sheer inertia by the unit claiming to control hockey, waving a letter of recognition from the FIH, has blacked out the scope to identify talent from various parts. There has not been a single national level competition for State units, save for the one staged by IHF in Bhopal. But Hockey India did everything to block it, threatening action against those taking part.

The selectors sent a team to Azlan Shah without a specialist drag-flicker. Then they picked a squad for the European tour sans the seniors citing reasons unacceptable in more ways than one. Now, the same set has brought back the discarded seniors, almost aligning to the idea of the chief coach, Jose Brasa. Everything now has to start afresh rendering the trips and tournaments meaningless.

Coming to the composition, anything better could not have been achieved in the circumstances. The question why the selectors are not convinced about Prabhjot Singh, in whom the coach has tremendous faith, props up now and then.

Eyebrows are raised over the choice of a single goal-keeper. But the move seems logical. All major countries field a solitary goalkeeper even when the choice is 18, to get one additional player. Bharat Chettri gets the nod ahead of the more experienced Adrian D'Souza and the World Cupper, Sreejesh, who was part of the European tour.

Headed by the drag-flicker, Sandeep Singh, who was outstanding during the last tour, all the prominent defenders have retained their posts. Arjun Halappa and Vikram Pillay will definitely enhance the profile of the mid-field. The hard-working wing-backs Gurbaj and Prabodh are retained along with Daniesh Mujtaba.

Rajpal Singh leads the frontline in the company of Tushar Khandekar and Shivendra Singh, who is back after nursing an injury. The coach has enough to sift and shuffle, but how satisfied Brasa is with the team without Prabhjot Singh is worth investigating.

Without a podium finish in the two earlier appearances (1998 and 2006), India has to perform beyond expectation for a first CWG medal, from among the strong outfits like Australia, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, Canada, South Africa and Malaysia.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 7:10:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/hockey/Confusing-contours-of-selections/article15898062.ece

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