Hockey teams need to brush up their act, be more consistent

When it comes to actual result, most sportspersons consider a silver medal as a loss and a bronze medal as a win.

This is especially true for sports that have separate matches for gold and bronze medals. The logic is simple, one gets a silver after losing the final or gold medal match, while a bronze medal is awarded after winning the match.

In that sense, the Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams at the recently-concluded Birmingham Commonwealth Games went through these same emotions — the men’s team was subdued in its celebrations after losing the final to Australia, while the girls were exuberant and celebrated their win over New Zealand in the shootout with verve gusto to win the bronze.

Another reason for the men’s team for not being enthusiastic in celebrating its second-place finish may be the humiliating 0-7 defeat it suffered in the final against Australia.

The women’s team was also unlucky because it lost the semifinal against Australia following a superb fightback, rallying from a goal behind to take the match into shootout.

But before thinking about the 2024 Paris Olympics, the Indian teams have a big test to pass in next year’s Asian Games as that is the qualifying event for the Olympics.

Though in the current qualification programme, in which the focus is on continental events, qualifying for Paris 2024 may not be so arduous, winning the Asian Games will surely be a great morale booster ahead of the Olympic Games.

But to be medal contenders in Paris, the teams need to work on a few areas and tighten their game in some sections.

The Indian coaches would like to see their teams coming up with more consistent efforts, making better use of their chances, and scoring more goals off penalty corners.

The men’s team needs to have more options or more versatile players so that it does not suffer as it did against Australia in the CWG final, when it lost both Vivek Sagar Prasad and Manpreet Singh — the skipper suffered a shoulder injury midway through the game while Vivek missed the match due to an injury.

The men’s team also needs to work on its attack and make better use of penalty corners. While they have three-four good penalty corner specialists, the forwards need to earn PCs for the experts to make use of them.

Though the defence was torn to shreds by Australia in Birmingham, it performed well over the last year, finishing third in the FIH Pro League.

The issues plaguing the women’s team are different and varied — they had a good first half of the year but the FIH Women’s World Cup was a disaster as the team failed to qualify for the quarterfinals after losing to New Zealand and Spain.

The team also needs to get former captain Rani Rampal recover from her injury and be ready for the tough battles at the Asian Games and Paris 2024. While she will be 29 by the time the Olympics get underway in Paris, Rani still has a couple of years for international hockey left in her. She is not only a good forward, but a talismanic leader as well, as she proved at the Tokyo Olympics.

In her absence, forwards like Vandana Katariya and Lalremsiami have done well, but they have not been able to take charge as Rani did. Vandana is maturing into a great forward, but she needs support.

In the World Cup, the Indian eves created many chances but failed to capitalise on the numerous penalty corners it earned. Though drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur and defender Deep Grace Ekka shouldered the responsibility, they were not as successful as they would have liked. The presence of someone like Rani would help them in penalty corner conversion, as she can provide a variation and can use her powerful hit too.

Overall, the two teams performed satisfactorily in the last year or so leading to Birmingham 2022, but if they have to bag medals at the Asian Games and the Paris Olympics, they need to brush up their act and be more consistent in all aspects of the game.




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