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Salta Bronze is a good beginning (12/20/2009)
--K. Arumugam
Salta Bronze is a good beginning

Editorial: Salta tournament was first test for Spaniard Jose Brasa in our hockey cauldron. Was India finishing third at the Champions Challenge -- in which world’s 7 to 15th ranked figured – satisfactory, good, or run of the mill stuff?

It is always better to ask questions before and after the tournament if we still consider hockey a popular sport.

This time around so much has been raised before the tour but the same media – which was earlier ready to crucify the chief coach -- almost took a sabbatical when the team returned.

It was again a clear case where the negative aspects of hockey are blown up, given extra due and when some positives happen the same media close its eyes. Swept under the carpet under the psyche is not only the Salta Bronze but also two gems of Indian players getting into the World Hockey’s All Star Team. The same channels and newspapers that ran campaigns in the run up to the Salta even failed to mention neither of the bronze nor of the duo’s global achievement.

Indian hockey is weighed down by the history. Anything less than gold is considered no medal. This is by and large the public and media’s perception of hockey.

The poor fellows who sweat it out on the turf had to carry this extra weight by default.

But I feel satisfied with the bronze.

The moment it appeared both India and Pakistan will clash in the semis, the gut feeling was neither will win in the final. Because, history says, both teams forget everything when the question of mutual contest comes into play. They exert everything at their disposal and almost become unsuitable to play another match.

Pakistan scored three goals each in each half was not good, it was a bad day and bad performance from India. There is no second opinion on that. However, the league performance need to be taken note of.

Take the case of China. We defeated it 4-1 in Salta, in a FIH tournament. It is a good result considering the fact that we lost to them in the recent Asia Cup and Asian Games.

The draw against New Zealand in the hindsight proves a decent show, as the Kiwis went on to win the title. It is a remarkable year for them and their big bang arrival into big league is expected bring a whiff of fresh air in to the stagnated top orders.

Over all India drew and lost a match each while wining all others. The defeat of Argentina – when did we last defeat Argentina in a FIH tournament, 2001 Champions Challenge final? – is a note worthy performance.

Brasa has been in the thick of training – even if we call training without giving him paraphernalia he wanted – less than six months.

Considering this, the team has reasonably done well. And we got a new player in once-discarded Mahadik, who scored the last minute winner for the bronze. How many times in the past did we score a goal in the last moments, the case being the reverse all along.

Some claim that had we won the Cup in Salta, we would have had a better pool for the 2010 World Cup.

I don’t subscribe to the view a pool in such a tournament as World Cup is weak or better.

India was in the company of Japan, Malaysia, Korea -- as if we were playing in Asia Cup -- and Cuba for the 2002 World Cup. Being in the so called 'weak pool' helped India there? We lost to Malaysia and Korea and could luckily drew Japan!!

Therefore, never have any illusion that the chances of World Cup would have had any Salta impact from Indian point of view.

Had Sandeep Singh been in Salta things would have been different? This question also lurks some minds.

We don’t know -- exactly.

But statistics does show he was there when we won the same medal at Boom, and when China defeated us at Kuantan.

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