It’s interesting to read that Harendra Singh, Indian hockey coach, feels that the four nations Punjab Gold Cup will kick start India’s campaign for the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup.
Brings us to the question whether we will ever have a campaign in this endless quest for a World Cup medal; the last time we won a World Cup medal was in 1975. It was gold.
Now 34 years later, we have a disbanded Indian Hockey Federation with a certain KPS Gill sulking. The Ad-Hoc committee is like a motley group of robbers who have all come together to ensure that Gill never comes back. And probably hockey.
But Harendra does believe that the come-back, yet another one, has been kick started with the Punjab Gold Cup. Harendra is an optimist. When you perpetually live in nostalgia and under the faded glitter of eight Olympic gold medals, optimism is like a medal around your neck. And Harendra wears his with aplomb.
It would be nice to see Col Balbir Singh as manager on the Indian team bench. He was the coach when India won it’s only medal at the Champions Trophy in 1983 at Amsterdam. Whether Harendra uses any of Balbir’s vast knowledge is up for speculation.
Balbir’s got a bad cold and a troublesome throat. If he needs to scream, rave and rant, the Indian team management better ensure that his throat doesn’t pack up. Both he and Harendra would need to use their vocal cords a bit frequently.
Seeing Ravi Pal Singh in the Argentina Test series did raise a few eye brows. He was in the 2005 Mini World Cup team to Amsterdam and except for running on the flanks, once in a while, tapping the ball into the opposition circle, Ravi Pal just made up the numbers. The last time I saw him was at the grass pitch of Sansarpur where he was playing a local tournament. Maybe, there has been a sea-change in his attitude towards the sport and also a complete turn-around in his talent. But that hasn’t given him a place in the team for the four-nations.
Is this the team for the future? In Indian hockey, the future/vision is always restricted to just six months. A few of Harendra’s trusted players from the 2005 junior world cup team are back: VS Vinay and Hari Prasad. Both did well at the junior World Cup but subsequently lost their places. Vinay would be starting in Chandigarh but Prasad has not been picked. If a foreign coach comes in after the four nations, it would be interesting to note how many from this team make the cut.
One of India’s biggest hockey stars, full-back Dilip Tirkey, may be playing his last tournament. I didn’t say it. Those are the reports coming out of the team camp at the Taj, Chandigarh. Harendra does clarify by saying: “Age is not the criteria. Performance is.”
Tirkey began his career at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and was the Indian captain at the 2004 Athens Olympics. It’s been a long and illustrious career. The pace may have slowed down; reflexes may not have the same cutting edge. Experience, however, has never been the yard stick for Indian team selection. For more on how to nurture experience and keep them fighting fit, ask the Dutch Hockey Federation for the file on one of their legends Teun de Nooijer. This wonderfully gifted player has been playing since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and would be on full display at the sector-42 stadium.
The four-nations begin on Saturday. India take on New Zealand and Olympic Champions Germany play Holland under lights. For those who believe that a stick and a ball can create magic, tune into the four-nation LIVE on doordarshan or better just visit the hockey stadium at Chandigarh.