The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Europe tour was not encouraging


Something extraordinary happened in the world of athletics when Usain Bolt lowered the 100m record in Berlin. But miracles and fireworks keep eluding Indian hockey. Here I am speaking of the men’s less-than-satisfactory performance in Europe, where they were again let down by their vulnerability to early and/or last-minute goals.

England, too, scripted a remarkable chapter when they defeated the mighty Australians to regain the Ashes. Of course, the retirement of the greats — Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden — only served to hasten the process that saw the Aussies relinquish their No.1 status.

For any game, a change of guard only helps its growth because the vacuum created is both chance and motivation for the ambitious.

Australia’s defeat holds the same implications for world cricket as the retirement of greats does for aspiring cricketers. The gap created calls for new faces and new blood and I have categorically emphasised upon the need to blood in youngsters.

It has been a long time since India last won at the Olympics, the World Cup or the Asiad. It’s been more than a quarter of a century since we won the last Olympic gold in hockey, in 1980. We have been struggling for over 30 years, but with very little talent coming up, it has proved to be a hard time for Indian hockey.

By the looks of it, medal hopes have to wait a little longer. The senior men’s team could hardly take the battle to the heavyweights on their tour of Europe where, out of the four Test series played, the boys could only win the one against Belgium. England, Spain and Holland showed that they are still out of our reach.

For me, the team’s showing on the tour has not given rise to very big hopes. The malady of conceding both early and last-minute goals has ailed the team for decades. I’ve been with the team myself, but the reasons behind such lapses have eluded me. It is difficult to explain whether it is lack of concentration or of confidence, or whether it is some other factor, because on this tour, there have been instances when three to five goals have been conceded right at the start or towards the end. The solution to this is in the hands of the players themselves. They have to have the resolve to make even a single goal count.

It is a pity that the matches were not televised in India. I hope the concerned authorities take note as the World Cup beckons early next year.

On the home front, the Hockey India/Indian Hockey Federation problem is yet to be solved although the FIH has appointed one of its vice-presidents as observer for the elections that are due. And now, even the sports ministry has said it will appoint its own observer and has asked Hockey India to get its act together.

That is all the hockey news because no local or domestic hockey is being played at the moment. It is the players, and not the officials, who suffer when this happens. I hope the sports ministry does something about it at the earliest.

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