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"Hang Me if We Don't Qualify". (12/22/2001)
--K. Arumugam
The first non-Olympian coach and perhaps the best one that Indian hockey has had so far, Cedric D’Souza is modest about his team winning the Prime Minister Cup at Dhaka recently. Refusing to go ha-ha over the win that India posted in the tense final against Pakistan , the thoroughbred professional vows to make winning a habit for Indians so that` people believes in the team’. It’s second tournament victory for Cedric’s India against Pakistan after a fluent 5-3 stroll in the final of the South Asian Federation Games in 1995. Though the Indian Hockey Federation does not even have e-mail id of its own, the techno-savvy trainer, who introduced walkie-talkie and cellular phones in coaching, plans to use computers in a novel way to improve the things. Now on a fortnight holiday in USA, he spoke to K. Arumugam on everything about his appointment to future preparations.

Cedric was first appointed as chief coach after 1994 Asian Games and he continued till 1996 Atlanta Olympics with a fantastic record of 28 wins, 18 draws in 63 international matches. If the 1994 Sydney World Cup where India came fifth was acme of achievement in the spell, the nadir was eighth rank at the Atlanta Olympics. He resigned after Atlanta disaster. However, he continued his tryst with the sport he loves most by traveling across the globe to witness major tournaments in the world. He also shone as a television commentator , columnist and organizer of domestic tournaments and clinics for youngsters. Excerpts from the interview:

Indian hockey had won three titles in 2001 - Asian Schools Hockey at Ludhiana, Akhbar El Yom Cup in Cairo and now the Prime Minister' Cup. Is Indian hockey looking up?

Let us hope that winning becomes a habit and the belief in our national team once again gets rekindled.

But for the 3 minutes collapse of Indian defence in which the Germans scored their both goals at Chennai, we could have clinched the Series too. Isn't it?

I think the games were evenly contested and could have gone either way although we did concede goals in the last ten minutes or so which turned out to give Germany the test series. If we had converted the chances that come our way then there would have been a different story. However, we are looking into the defensive lapses and will rectify them in the future.

Is the concept of having three full-pledged defenders paying off? More so in the light of the fact that we conceded just nine goals in 8 matches while scoring 25 since you became the coach?

We are trying to play total hockey with emphasis on attack when we have possession and quickly reverting to defense when we lose possession. As it is something new to them, it will take time for the team to change their mindset and get into the new groove.

Apart from the victory that gladdened the hearts of Indian sports lovers, how the Dhaka win is significant from your point of view?

Well. A victory in any tournament is welcome. India needs to win on a regular basis to once again get the populace to once again believe in our team and start paying attention to our national sport.

About the shortcomings that need more attention We are working on set plays, defensive duties, off the ball running, possession, fast breaks etc.

Penalty corner conversions seems to be an area of concern. Do you have any special focus to improve the lot?

Yes. This is what wins a game. So the next few will be more focused in both attack and defense. The direct/indirect variations in attack and the variations in the charge out in defense, with the use of counters when we rob the ball when defending the penalty corners and all.

One player who did well in penalty corner at the Sydney Olympics is Dilip Tirkey (4 goals). But it appears his potential in this respect is under-harnessed and under-groomed. Is it because of the belief that direct hits have less probability of success?

I think I have answered the question in my previous answer.

Other than penalty corner, the Indians do not seem to have perfected the art of stroke conversion too. We lost many tie-breaks in the recent past(5-8th place decider at Atlanta Olympics, two misses in the Sydney World Cup(1994) to quote a few and now at Dhaka too two misses in the final.

Well. The only way to win is through more practise and hard work and perfecting the art of stroke taking. Apart from this one has to have complete self belief and be able to focus on the job with cutting out the crowd, the pressure and the antics of the opposing goalkeeper.

You introduced headphone communication in India during the SAF Games when your deputy Divnain Singh sitting on stands and you analysed the game as it progressed. Now in Chennai even as you were in hospital, you were in touch with your deputy C.R. Kumar with mobile during the Series decider match against Germany. What ne

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