Hockey

Nobbs places faith in youth

Michael Nobbs deserves a generous measure of plaudits. His option to garner young talent and ease out ageing stars is bold, innovative and imaginative.

This is mirrored well in the selection of the team for the Olympic hockey qualifier starting in Delhi on February 18.

Effecting a radical change is no easy task. The Aussie coach must have realised it by now. Those ensconced merely on history are being counted out.

Not anti-veteran

Nobbs is not against veterans. If true, then there is no place for players like Ignace Tirkey, Tushar Khandekar or Shivendra Singh.

Nobbs is pragmatic without being sentimental. For everyone there comes a time to call it quits or fade away. Quite inexplicably, a section of the media continues to be on the side of the veterans.

There is an element of regret over the exclusion of Rajpal Singh, Vikram Pillay, Gurbaj and the allotment of a standby slot for Arjun Halappa.

To some extent, Halappa's position is a bit of a humiliation for a stalwart with over 300 caps. The rationale behind sidelining the rest is not worthy of debate at all; they did nothing to prompt that.

The road ahead for Nobbs, tasked to steering the team back into the Olympics fold in London 2012, is unenviable. He has to justify every move.

Fair composition

Even a superficial glimpse over the composition reveals the veneer of fairness. Everyone is of proven merit. The series against South Africa laid the platform for them.

The trump card for Nobbs is Sardara Singh. A midfielder who fulfils every parameter to be described as world class, his value requires no over play.

If 50 per cent of his proficiency is capitalised, the squad is in line for a rewarding time. It is difficult to identify a more under-rated player in the world than Sardara.

Sandeep Singh and Raghunath are stars in their own right when it comes to conversion of penalty corners. Their performances against South Africa and in the Champions Challenge are worthy of introspection. But their success rate lies on the ability of the frontline to create the penalty corners.

The midfield, led by Sardara along with Ignace, Birendra Lakra and newcomer Kothajit Singh, is formidable.

So does the frontline, where S.V. Sunil is in great form. Some of the goals, he netted or the passes he engineered in South Africa are etched in memory.

Yuvaraj Walmiki has earned loads of accolades since the Champions Trophy at Ordos. He, along with Danish Mujtaba, is a striking force with astute touches coming from seasoned artistes Khandekar and Shivendra Singh.

Doughty warrior

Bharat Chetri retains the role of captain. Apart from showing the skills under the bar, he is mandated to motivate the rest to reach the summit. History awaits this doughty warrior.

If Chetri manages to pilot the team back to London 2012 then his place in the pages of Indian hockey will doubtlessly be etched.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 11:22:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/hockey/nobbs-places-faith-in-youth/article2848417.ece

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