Indians' unimpressive run continues

S. Thyagarajan

AMSTERDAM: : Is Indian hockey slipping back to the twilight zone? Pessimistic though this poser is, there is an overwhelming unease and anguish over the string of unimpressive showing so far in the Rabobank Trophy here.

There was precious little to romanticise over the key encounter involving India and Pakistan on Thursday night. For the major part, the match was scrappy, but Pakistan made capital of the penalty corners it earned to record a 3-1 victory in pool `A' of the competition. The outcome gave Pakistan a clear four points with a match remaining against Germany.

The Indians ended their programme in the pool without a solitary point and will now have to fight for positions seven and eight.

Coach Rajinder Singh (jr) pitches the problem on the senior players not contributing enough. His threat is to do away with them and turn towards the juniors. But is that a solution? Pitchforking juniors, especially the forwards to replace the likes of Gagan, Deepak and Prbhjot Singh, will prove a wrong move. The induction should be paced and gradual.

This is not a defence to the desultory, at times deplorable, work of the forward line here. But it must be conceded that each one of the seniors, whom Rajinder refers to as failures, had to endure periods of hibernation. Gagan was out after the Olympics in Athens where he was the top scorer. So too was Prabhjot for his intemperate pronouncement against the German coach. Deepak had a lay off after a painful hit on the chest at the Olympics. To integrate them into a striking force again will take a bit of longer.

Nothing refreshing

It is pertinent to ask how ingenuous has the coach himself been to the team. There is absolutely nothing refreshingly visible either in way of technique or tactics. Basically, Rajinder Singh (jr) is an introvert, inarticulate and media shy, even to the point of avoiding mandatory post match briefings.

He had to be searched for about 30 minutes on Thursday after the India-Pakistan match, even as the international media waited patiently for his reaction.

While the move to retain Rajinder Singh (jr) till next World Cup is debatable at a different level, he should review the whole scenario in a positive perspective.

Challenging task

A whole scale shuffle at this juncture is not matured response. But what lies ahead is a definitely challenging one to form a stronger squad for the Champions Trophy in Chennai. A selective induction of a handful from the junior ranks cannot be deferred for long. Adrian D'Souza, William Xalco, Sandeep Singh, Vivek Singh, Tushar Khandekar and Hari Parsad readily come to mind. Discards like Sandeep Michael are worthy another try.

The result: Spain 4 (Victor Sojo, Alex Fabregas, Eduard Tabau, Albert Sala) beat Germany 1 (Nico Sonnenschein). HT 0-0.

Thursday's result: Pakistan 3 (Muhammad Saqlain, Imran Muhammad, Shakeel Abbasi) bt India 1 (Didar Singh).

Saturday's matches: (7-8): India v England (4 p.m.); (5-6): Netherlands v Pakistan/Germany (6-30 p.m.).

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