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New Indian Express: Hockey blues sour good games (9/3/2018)
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New Indian Express: Hockey blues sour good games

This Asian Games has been a successful outing for India’s young who ventured into this intimidating territory of a multi-discipline event for the first time.

This Asian Games has been a successful outing for India’s young who ventured into this intimidating territory of a multi-discipline event for the first time. Surprising it may sound, in sports like table tennis we were among the best in the world. There were moments of sheer joy in track and field and lesser known sports like kurash or bridge.

There were stories of triumph that reflected the indomitable spirit of human endurance. Far away from those tales, and enmeshed between reality and dream, were two sad stories of losses in hockey and kabaddi. These two disciplines were expected to fetch four gold medals. In the end, hockey fetched a silver and bronze, same as kabaddi. Let’s keep kabaddi aside, for now.

It was a gold to lose in hockey, in the men’s as well as women’s section. That the team Indian men beat by eight goals in the group stage—Japan—would have been their opponents had they entered the final shows the level of competition. Beating smaller teams by 20-plus goals is no yardstick to measure greatness or ability. The way India lost to Malaysia in the semi-final reminded one of some old follies. Conceding late goals has been a historical problem, but it seems this experienced bunch is still to learn from past mistakes. Making it even more embarrassing is that Malaysia’s technical director is Terry Walsh, who was unceremoniously sent off as India coach after the team won the Asian Games gold in 2014.

There are fundamental problems in our approach and temperament. Losing to a lower-ranked team is unacceptable. Apart from the gold, they have also lost a chance to secure a direct qualification berth for the 2020 Olympics. But wholesale change is not going to be the answer. Changing the coach, that Hockey India is so good at, is also not an answer. We have to look within. Each player needs to be talked to. Everyone needs to take responsibility. With the World Cup in India less than three months away, let us give them another chance before coming to conclusions.

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