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Hockey gets Rio boost

Hockey gets Rio boost
Highlights

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is perhaps yet to come to terms with the disorder that prevails in many a discipline, even as Rio Olympics are round the corner, but at least a whiff of fresh air is emanating from the national sport and in the nick of time.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is perhaps yet to come to terms with the disorder that prevails in many a discipline, even as Rio Olympics are round the corner, but at least a whiff of fresh air is emanating from the national sport and in the nick of time. If anything, the manner the boys made history at London a couple of days back, overly reinforces the fact that one can derive positives if the authorities dare to take risks.

That is precisely where one should laud Hockey India’s gamble of fielding a young team for a coveted event like the Champions Trophy, where India’s performances till date have been nothing to rave about. The silver lining to the bronze of three decades old signals the dawn of a new era for the men’s squad. That also serves as the perfect starting point to the last leg of preparation for the ensuing big one at Rio.

That India managed to win silver losing to the formidable Australians with all their guns blazing despite ‘resting’ two of its proven seasoned-campaigners, captain Sardar Singh and drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh, is perhaps the biggest possible gain from the latest outing. As team coach Roelant Oltmans pointed out, ‘we won confidence on our way to Rio.’

The solid bench strength is a tribute to the years of toil that have been put in to bring the country to a level that almost seems a throwback to the late seventies when India’s stick-wizardry was the most feared one in the world of hockey. Credit should go to stand-in skipper PR Sreejesh, whose magnificent goal-keeping abilities have saved the country from many possible ignominious defeats.

There is no denying that he has been the country’s Most Valuable Player for several years now. Suddenly, it seems like the team is spoilt for choice considering that youngsters like SV Sunil, Harmanpreet Singh, Manpreet Singh and Mandeep Singh have risen to the task so admirably that the absence of the seniors was hardly felt anytime during the 2016 FIH Champions Trophy.

Taken pragmatically, the brilliant showing by Oltmans’ boys does raise hopes of Olympic glory, particularly because the players blended well as a team and the return of the old guard, including the presently injured Birendra Lakra, will solidify the medal prospects. However, in the hour of glory and caught in the euphoric moments, the HI must serve a note of caution.

Indians are notoriously inconsistent, something that was also on show in London, which is not a good augury for a team that relies on defensive techniques and seldom goes on the offensive in terms of raids. That India conceded a whopping 39 penalty corners is something that should have the alarm bells ringing.

A welcome feature has been the major turnaround brought about on mental temperament. India should spend the next two months to iron out these flaws and also streamline its strengths considering the intensity with which Olympics will be fought. The boys fell at the final front but won a millions of hearts.

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