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My Last Word
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Hockey reduced to footnote in Indian sports scene (12/31/2018)
--K. Arumugam
MY LAST WORD 2: Many opportunities presented Indian hockey to come up and stay counted in 2018 but it did not grab them. Very sadly, across gender, genre, and age groups, India lost all the seven finals it played this year! Barring an Asian Youth Olympic Qualifier, India’s men and women hockey had no Gold show to gladden the country that keeps eternal hopes on it. An Asian Champions Trophy final was a wash out.

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In 2018, Indian athletes rose like a Phoenix from ashes, throwing in their sphere the star sprinters like Hima Das. A battery of Badminton stars knocked out established names and nations to script new sporting chapters, PV Sindhu even winning a World Badminton Series event after so many Silvers.

Most other sports than hockey stole the limelight in both Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.

Cricket, as usual won many laurels including U-19 World Cup and the ongoing Test Series wins against the Aussies. Marry Kom won her sixth world boxing title.

Sports is increasingly becoming popular among the masses, corporate spend on sports showing upward trend.

However, the hockey sports that kept India on the global sporting map for long had been bogged down by its own weight and could do nothing to cheer about.

Indian hockey teams, cutting across gender and age group events, did not live up to the expectation, even falling below the standard they maintained in the previous years.

Most significant let down epithet should go to men’s hockey. It was the undisputed champions of Asia till August this year.

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At Jakarta, India lost to Malaysia in the semi-finals to forgo its dominance for next four years.

(PIC: Indian women's team failed at the last hurdle in Jakarta. This is the biggest disappointment of 2018)

Indian men have won U-18, U-21 and Sr Asia Cups, but they are not the Asian Games champions. Though India is still top ranked Asian team in the FIH hierarchy, its failure at Jakarta put them on the tricky path of qualifying for the next Olympics.

Indian men’s failure actually covered up the another big failure: Women’s defeat in the Asian Games final. Like men, our ladies are also Asia Cup and Asian Champions Trophy holders, but failed at Jakarta in the last hurdle. The fact here is that Indian ladies did not lose to Japan in the last four years, but did so in the final. They are also now precariously placed insofar as Tokyo Olympics is concerned.

India took part in many tournaments this year due to once-in-four-year hectic circle. We saw India in the Commonweatlh Games, Champions Trophy, Asian Games, Asian Champions Trophy.

Except inconsequential ACT in Muscat, AYOQ in Bangkok, Indian men failed elsewhere.

Indeed it is surprising India failed at finals or semifinals, showing how the team lacked mental strength to be Champions or Goldies.

Unfortunately, India failed to come out clean in all the three penalty shoot outs that it played this year, one in Oceania, one in Europe and the other at home continent!

Cutting across age group and gender, genre (like Hockey 5s), Indians did not win Gold, save Muscat where finals were cancelled due to heavy rains, in 2018. The below data is disturbing to say the least.

Indian men lose the finals of two 4-Nations in New Zealand
Indian men and women lose the semi-final at Gold Coast
Indian men and women lose the bronze medal match at Gold Coast.
Indian men lose the Champions Trophy final
Indian boys and girls lose the final of Youth Olympics
Indian boys lose the Sultan of Johor Cup final
Indian men lose the semi-finals of Asian Games
India ladies lose the final of Asian Games
Indian men lose the World Cup Quarterfinal

The teams certainly did well to reach the quarterfinal, semifinal or final as the case may be. This is clearly brought out in the above list. However, if one looks minutely as to whom the team lost crucial matches that denied them title win, and in some cases like Gold Coast even consolation medals, the picture is one of pathetic.

Its Malaysia that undid Indian men at both Jakarta and Buones Aires. Its England that did a Malaysia for both men and women at Gold Coast.

The fact is that India is above both Malaysia and England in FIH Ranking!

Indian hockey had every chance to make amends, as tournaments came calling successively. Most significant one being this month’s World Cup.

Winners of Junior World Cup could not even progress to semifinal in Bhubaneswar.

In all, it appears Indian hockey chokes. It chocked at Hamilton, Johor Bharu, Jakarta, Gold Coast, and lastly at home in Bhubaneswar too.

Indian hockey is fast becoming a footnote in the Indian sports scene despite solid system to stem the rot, and gallons of oxygen pumped in.

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