The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shuffle needed in midfield

Coach Rajinder Singh has to alter his strategy now to put India back on track in the elite championship.

India’s inconsistency in the first two matches is hard to explain, particularly after their superb display in recent tournaments in Sydney and Hamburg. The midfielders have left much to be desired and Rajinder has no choice but to shuffle his midfielders and hope the team regains the rhythm before it is too late.

I think Vikram Pillay should be used in the midfield which has been the area of concern. Ignace Tirkey is not at his best while Viren Rasquinha has not been able to control the ball.

The win over Germany was not a performance which will draw much inspiration. What an amazing display by the Germans. They were solid in their trapping, passing, tackling and kept the experienced Indians at bay till the 69th minute.

Rajinder has a tough job at hand to revitalise the team. The shoddy display in the first two matches has cast a doubt on India’s prospects of breaking the Champions Trophy jinx.

The communication gap between the deep defenders while marking the opponents inside the striking circle is another factor which needs to be addressed. At this level the body language is not enough. One such situation saw three German forwards in front of goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan which resulted in their first goal by Bendict Sperling.

No Indian defenders marked the Germans. Conceding goals like this will be a major problem.

Though the German defenders matched the Indian forwards, I will give full credit to Deepak Thakur, Gagan Ajit Singh and Prabhjot Singh. They kept challenging the German defenders and exploited the vacant spaces very well. The authoritative display by these forwards helped India score all the three field goals.

Gagan Ajit is turning out to be the star player while Deepak is getting back his confidence. Prabhjot has a lot of skill and the good thing is that he still improving. The trio will have a crucial role to play in the remaining matches. Although the forwards are doing a decent job, the same cannot be said of the midfielders and defenders.

Rajinder should also bring the long passes into play particularly from the wings. Most of the attacks will be fruitful when the forwards start playing from these areas. So far, all the field goals in the first two matches have come through this system of play.

Rajinder should stress that they play ‘free zone’ hockey with quick passes and joining the attack in the process. This will enhance the rhythm of the game.

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