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Indian Women under perform under foreign coaches (7/23/2017)
--K. Arumugam
Indian women have been second or third in their home continent till a decade ago. They always figured among the medals in the Asian Games-Asia Cup domain. Once they were Afro-Asian champions too. Bonus came from Commonwealth Games (Gold and Silver in the 2000s).

It was therefore desired by the administrators to lift the women above the benchmark level. It was felt a bit more international exposure, improvement in fitness levels and home events can accomplish this objective.

Whatever was done to their male counter parts was provided for the girls too. The scale differed but not the approach. Government of India has always been a benefactor of women’s sports, and our girls were no exceptions.

However, Indian women hockey instead of going places, is going down -- and further down. Their inability to beat (or score required goals against) South Africa at home, against whom they hardly lost till then, saw them miss out London Olympic number. Despite being the World Cup bronze medallists, Juniors failed to qualify for the next number.

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In Johannesburg recently, the graph fell further low and flat.

Nothing more need to be said: India won just a match out of six.

England, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, USA not to speak of Ireland, have been equals insofar as Indian girls’ recent history is concerned, but India struggle and lose routinely nowadays to these same rivals. It never happened that India will lose to NZ 8-2 as was the case in a recent tour!

The kind of game they played in Johannesburg is logical corollary of such series of below bar performance, a really worry.

They played a defence kind of hockey, with almost stretched them with unforced errors giving enough elbow room for every rival to pierce them.

Never play defensive brand of hockey without proper physique or physics.

Unless extremely fit, unless the basics in give and take are perfect, unless you are mentally tuned to it, unless possessing impeccable skills in PC defence, a team cannot play defensive hockey. Counters are essential but it again entails fast feet, opportunistic eye for goals and a killer instinct.

Watch the Johannesburg matches of India. They were mostly defensive. The third and fourth quarter of the last match is a proof. Indians were content guarding the long goal lead. Indian girls were often seen trying to clear well-knit attacks with slow dribbles and thus losing possession, leading to yield two late goals that sealed their fate (1-2).

Over all, Indians did not excite anybody, they do not have match any winners in their roll. This is a flat team. There is no novelty in their penalty corner drills either. How Rani Ramphal will negotiate – direct hit – is evident from first penalty corner Indian earned to the last! Her record is poor and no alternative plan existed.

Here comes the question of foreign coaches. Many came and gone, all silently. Each one it seemed plotted a step down.

Under Indian coaches our women have had a bench mark as explained in the initial paras. More money and more effort, which saw enrolment of foreign coaches, have failed to even maintain it.

The situation is not encouraging if not alarming.

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