"There is lot of time to go for the World Cup and we are showing improvement. If we keep the pace we have a fair chance to win the World Cup. We are moving forward step by step" - Indian coach, Harendra Singh
May 13

Written by: Sundeep Misra
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 

China 2 India 2

The signs were obvious in Ipoh when India won the Sultan Azlan Shah Tournament. A stuttering midfield combined with a misfiring forward line was giving away enough space for a tactically sound team to surprise the Indians.

Even when India led 2-0 in the first half, the midfield was still not coming together to rally and ensure that the Chinese were stretched on the flanks; their Achilles heel.

We still kept making inroads through the centre giving away the ball so that China could use five to six strong hits to make its way into the Indian half.

When Harendra Singh, the Indian coach, says he is disappointed, it means, that he didn’t do his homework well. One could argue that India had their chances. But in modern hockey, above the misses and ball play is a clear rule – score and win. India didn’t do it and suffered.

Skipper Sandeep Singh (31st and 34th) converted two of India’s four penalty corners to put the side ahead, but the Indian defence crumbled at crucial junctures to allow China escape with a draw.
For China, Lu Feng Hui (45th) and Yu Yang (59th) sounded the boards.

India was beaten 2-3 by Pakistan in its first match of the tournament.
China’s tenacity and its ability to slow the pace of the game won the day for it against an inconsistent Indian side which played well in patches.

Even in Doha (Asian Games), the Chinese had the measure of the Indians. In that heart-breaking match, India missed at least a dozen sitters. China had a few chances and they made it count.
At Kuantan, the Indian wingers, especially Arjun Halappa, were impeccable with their crosses.

But the old and now boringly repetitive fumbles by Rajpal Singh and Prabhjot Singh cost the side dear. Nobody denies that Rajpal and Prabhjot are ball players with a tremendous amount of skills. But it doesn’t count anywhere if you are not capable of putting the ball away. Knowing that he was being crowded out by the Chinese, Rajpal only had to follow a pattern of parallel passes or working in tandem to create more penalty corners. But the individual pattern of play is so solidly ingrained in Indian players that changing tactics to suit the team needs goes to the cleaners. Only here, India went to the cleaners, failing to make it to the semi-finals. It’s a disgrace for a team that won the last two editions.

However, Sandeep, who was off-colour in the first match against Pakistan, converted two penalty corners in a span of three minutes as the defending champion went into the breather with a comfortable 2-0 lead.

Sandeep opened the scoring in the 31st minute with a fierce drag-flick that beat the Chinese custodian hands down after Tushar Khandekar had earned India’s first penalty corner.
Three minutes later, he doubled the lead with another immaculate penalty corner conversion.

With a 2-0 cushion, the Indians came out firing on all cylinders in the second half. Against the Chinese, that was like slitting your own neck. China found the space that the midfield yielded in trying to break through. What followed were swift counter-attacks.

The Chinese, who spoilt India’s medal hopes in the 2006 Asian Games with a 3-2 victory, reduced the lead in the 45th minute when Hui found the net with an indirect variation off the team’s first penalty corner.

Chinese forward Yang drove the final nail in India’s coffin in the 59th minute with a delicate touch from a free hit following a costly defensive lapse.

As India searched for the match-winner, China ensured that no mistakes happened in the defence as they kept the ball out.

With just 50 seconds to go in the match, Sandeep did get an opportunity to seal the match and a semifinal place for India.
But his drag-flick was stopped by a diving Chinese goalkeeper Su Ri Feng to kill any last hopes of the Indians.



4 comment(s) so far...

Re: India gifts semis berth to China

I eat my words. I thought we would get past the Chinese and even make it to the finals.

I have been saying this again and again: we need a ten year plan to revive hockey. Indian hockey needs systemic changes. One coach can't come in suddenly, sit on the fence for a while, and make dramatic things happen. We need to go to school kids and see that they mature into hockey players. No one plays hockey in Bombay barring a few clutches of East Indians and Catholic boys. Ditto with the other metropolises. No hockey player will come out of the big cities anymore. Television and the papers tell them that the only sport in the world is cricket. Even if you are an ordinary league player in cricket, you can keep the home fires burning and get publicity too. What's the big deal in playing hockey for India?? Nothing. Our boys are playing for the love of the game. Their international matches are not even televised.

The big problem with Indian hockey is its predictability. A smart opponet can easily see through it. The forwards play the same way, the penalty corner execution is the same, panic attacks come in waves, the game is sometimes spectacular and most of the time mediocre, it is moody, and there is no passion, imagination or variation. We will have to serioulsy study the Aussies. They play creative and total hockey.

Now we have to forget the asia Cup and move on.

But, like India, I don't see anything changing. We will have slums and oppressive poverty, water and power shortages for the next thousand years and more. Indian hockey too will continue to gasp. As a nation we do not have the software for success.

The world has changed and we are still hanging on to grandmother's apron strings.

Jai Hind

By Rajendar Menen on   Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Re: India gift semis berth to China

Overconfidence and inconsistensy kill India's hope to reach semifinal.Last ten minutues still letting the team down.India needs changes in the manner they train.I hope new coach will bring new system of training.

By raj on   Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Re: India gift semis berth to China

Sad but it also exposes our glaring deficiencies. If we cannot wallop ( not just beat them, but beat them convincingly ) China, how will we fare against the Europeans ? Rajpal has always been overrated as a player and it is time a proper replacement is found. Hope Brasa can pick a team of worthy players to represent our country. All is not lost and we hope the lessons learn't will take us forwards.

By Nikhilesh Roy on   Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Re: India gift semis berth to China

Instead of going all out, it seems that India played a very defensive game in the Asia Cup. India had nothing to loose. After all they didn't make it to the Beijing Olympics. India's habit of conceding late goals repeated in Kuantan also. We can't blame IHF this time. The players and the coach should take up the blame. Hope the new Spanish coach would turn around the fate of Indian Hockey.

By Joji on   Tuesday, May 19, 2009

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