Don't ignore the lessons

A MOMENT TO CHERISH:Australia's Luke Doerner's power and accuracy in penalty flicks helped him become the top-scorer in the World Cup.  

S. Thyagarajan

Chennai: The 12th hockey World Cup is now history. That it went off without a major hiccup, after all the misgivings in the initial phase, is a matter of satisfaction for those behind the venture. True, there were irritants, like excessive restrictions in the name of security. They were inevitable in the wake of the threats emanating now and then.

A heartening feature was the spectator response. A goodly crowd braved the weather, security checks and discomforts related to searching for ticket counters and seating arrangements, to witness a brand of hockey not often seen in and around the country.

For those with blinkers that the sub-continental ethos is the alpha and omega of hockey, the quality and content proffered by the exponents of modern mode and methods proved an eye-opener.

The competition projected an insight into what constitutes the approach on synthetic pitches.

That a near capacity crowd turned up to watch Australia and Germany fighting for the title is a testimony to the hunger for witnessing something refreshing in the system that old-timers always dismissed with contempt. How archaic the Asian style is became evident. Even Korea, which prides itself on having synthesised different methods, could not progress beyond the sixth.

Modern hockey

The presence of an appreciative audience for the final on Saturday is an endorsement for the virtues of modern hockey, which is threaded on the ingredients of speed, skill and shooting power.

The integration of teamwork and individual excellence was evident in the workouts conceived and executed by Australia, Germany, England, the Netherlands and Spain.

Small wonder then that the next Champions Trophy in the German city of Monchengladbach will be a competition between Europe and Oceania. New Zealand, which surprisingly finished ninth in Delhi, has made it by virtue of winning the Champions Challenge event.

The World Cup has purveyed to the home audience that modern hockey, as designed by ingenuous coaches, is as much a spectacle as the repeatedly talked about and lamented sub-continental system of short passing, dribbling, body dodge and what not. It is easy to visualise the essence of all these as part of the modern tapestry. Yet, what is mind-boggling is the velocity at which the moves are planned and executed.

Did we not witness the ball play and dribble of Teun di Nooijer, Jamie Dwyer or Mattias Witthaus? Did anyone miss the artistry of solo runs by Pol Amat or the loping runs through the defence by Ashley Jackson, or the power and accuracy behind penalty flicks by Luke Doerner or Taeke Taekema?

The crowd today loves to see sport played at different velocity in which proficiency is paramount. The World Cup established it unambiguously. No longer can they be taken for a ride by coaches or ill-informed administrators parroting modern hockey lacks the virtues of Asian inputs.

Neither Pakistan nor India has finished anywhere near the podium in World Cup since 1994.

The lesson is clear. Learn and adopt modern techniques and tactics. Else, our hockey will become a relic.

The effort to create an illusion that Asian style still is the best cannot sell anymore with Indian, or even, Pakistani spectators.