SPORT

India lacks consistency

A vastly improved performance was still not enough to get India a win as they lost 4-5 to Holland in their second match of the Champions Trophy in Lahore.

The encouraging part was that this performance came against a side of the calibre of Holland, but the sad part was that for the umpteenth time India lost a match they could have won, or at least should have drawn.

In international hockey at this level, a single goal can spell the difference between fighting for a medal and being left out in the cold among also-rans.

Against Holland, one defensive lapse cost us a goal, and then one miss in closing stages meant even the draw eluded India.

Consistency, that one important word in sport, is what is missing right now. Once the team finds that, rest will follow in place. But for that word to happen, there ought to be a plan.

Dutch get upperhand

India and Holland have always had high scoring matches. And almost always the Dutch manage to pull off the win in the end.

It happened in the Champions Trophy in Amstelveen in 2003 and now again in Lahore.

One major positive from this match was that the players did not let the first defeat against Spain linger on in their mind. They simply put that aside and played afresh day, and that is what is required of them.

They attacked well, defended well too, and had a lot of good moves to speak about. Even more encouraging was the fact that they did not give up at any stage. They kept fighting despite trailing at various points. Further, carrying on the pluses, they did not run out of steam in the last quarter.

Having noticed all the positives, it is imperative to mention that there were some areas of concern, too. I cannot understand, how a team's performance can vary so much in a matter of just 24 or 30 hours. This was like a different team from the one that took the field against Spain.

Another problem area for India is conceding soft goals, like the one which India was guilty of just before the half-time hooter when a defense lapse by Hapral Singh cost India a crucial goal. A soft goal like that leaves the others pondering over 'that goal'. This also means that it takes the team a little time to settle back into the game.

Excuses

Also, I find it a little out of place to keep saying that this is a young team or an inexperienced one. In international hockey, there are no extra points for fielding a young team.

And when people, be it the media or the team management, keep repeating the same thing, it seems like they are looking for excuses.

However, the team and the coach must not pay attention to whatever people say. Everybody has a job to do.

The media will analyse each move and often criticise, but as long as the team and coach know their goal, they should work towards it.

They should simply put their heads down and play their best. Take each match one at a time and evolve a strategy at two levels — a short term one for the tournament and the other for a long-term four-year period.

That will automatically show results, as each tournament and each small period will help make the four-year cycle a fruitful one.

There is now a rest day, before India meet Germany. Germany for the past couple of editions has been using the Champions Trophy to groom players.

Their main team ensures a place in Champions Trophy through performances in Olympics, World Cup and so on, and the Champions Trophy gives the upcoming players a great chance to play the best in the game to ensure a regular supply of top class players. — PTI

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