Hockey

The impact of artificial turf

The history of hockey World Cup deserves to be studied in two parts; the competition on natural grass and on artificial surface.

This will reflect the progressive shift in the power balance from Asia to Europe.

Launched in 1971 against the backdrop of the unprecedented political turbulence, that forced the proposer, patron and the host Pakistan agree to shift the venue to Barcelona, the ebb and flow of the World Cup has a fascinating ring about it.

Eventful in more ways than one, the competition has coursed through four decades and a half overcoming trials and tribulations.

Edition after edition mirrored an era of vibrancy.

It ranged from the enlarged sophistication in training, tactics and coaching, alteration of rules, research, development and design in equipment manufacture, pragmatic formatting of components to capture the expanding TV audience.

Today, the World Cup, starting on Saturday at The Hague, is slated to attract millions of viewers on several social networks, apart from TV.

On natural grass Asia’s dominance was pronounced in the five championships from 1971 to 1982. The synthetic pitch was used for the first time in 1986 at Willesden.

In the five played on grass, Asia cornered four titles: Pakistan in 1971, 78, 82, and India in 1975, with Netherlands winning the title in 1973 in a pulsating tie-breaker against India.

Apart from the single triumph of Pakistan in 1994 at Sydney, no Asian country has managed to taste success in the seven editions from 1986 to 2010.

Australia, the defending champion, Germany and the Netherlands have won the cup twice each. Among them, Germany has an outstanding record of figuring in 11 semifinals from 1973 to 2010.

Different ball game

Conscious elaboration of the historical data does support the argument that hockey continues to be a different ball game for Asians on synthetic pitches. This is a reality that needs to be admitted.

Asia must strive to march on in the quest to narrow down the chasm.

With Pakistan out for the first time, the onus of Asia retaining its imprint squarely rests on three countries — India, Korea and Malaysia.

How far will they go in this is what the hockey fraternity in the continent is waiting for.

The winners: 1971— Pakistan; 1973 — Holland; 1975 — India; 1978 — Pakistan; 1982 — Pakistan; 1986 — Australia; 1990 — The Netherlands; 1994 — Pakistan; 1998 — The Netherlands; 2002 — Germany; 2006 — Germany; 2010 — Australia.

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Printable version | Nov 1, 2020 1:41:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/hockey/the-impact-of-artificial-turf/article6063645.ece

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