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|August 10, 1999||
Whither, Indian hockey?Cedric D'Souza
After resigning as National coach in November 1996, I have been writing a few articles, rather sporadically I should say, regarding hockey, and so it came as a pleasant surprise when Rediff.com asked me whether I would write a weekly or bimonthly column for them. My initial reaction to this offer was skepticism! Because in the past selective editing of my articles in the media changed the perspective of my piece. In the end, my decision to write is based on my love for the game from which I have derived so much joy.
The results that came under his tenure were quite creditable - a semi-final place at the Commonwealth Games and the gold medal at the Asian Games after 32 long years, even given the fact that the Olympics and World Cup are a different cup of tea.
We now have the Indo-Pak series and the German tour behind us. The rested players continue to be 'rested'. The accent continues to be on youth, more youth, different youth, and youth at the expense of the mature.
Grooming of youth:
Now, if we are grooming a team comprising youth, then why is it that every youth or national team with youth - that leaves the shores of India - is different? We seem to be trying out new players on every tour. But are we really giving the young lot a fair chance to prove their mettle?
This chopping and changing just goes to prove that we have not yet come to a concerted decision, and the IHF is still groping in the dark as to which players are good enough to be in the team for Sydney, a team in which many slots still seem vacant.
I firmly believe that changes are warranted and justified only when the replacements are on par or better than those being replaced. The time for experiments should end soon and a homogenous composition established at the very earliest.
However, it is sad to note that the senior six/eight (mature) players have not been selected, nor sent on any tours abroad to prove themselves. In my book, it is mandatory that the players be exposed to international competition on a regular basis so as to make assessments of their strengths and weaknesses.
One must take cognizance to the fact that a team does not consist of a bunch of 16 individual players, senior or junior? The key word is teamwork - which comes only when the team works together as a collective unit, thereby formulating a winning combination, be it at the training camps or on tours. It takes years of interaction and playing together to come up with a good blend, and set up a harmonious combination both on and off the ground. Hence, the likes of the six/eight players should also be touring abroad, thereby giving the federation, and themselves, the opportunity to evaluate whether they are still good enough to represent the country. It will also give the IHF the scope to carefully examine the blend of youth and experience.
International teams' norms:
Our coaches are changed so very often that players have to readjust to the new coaching patterns prescribed by the new coach. But if there were a proper uniform structure in coaching, then there would be some sort of continuity.
Look at the west. They have a superb professional and uniform coaching format that is followed by all, right from the top - the national coach, down to the low level club coach. This guarantees that there is smooth transition from one age group to the next, be it at club or national level, and also when new players are to be inducted into the national team. The voids, be it in combination play, training, skill, mental approach, thinking etc, that are normally a part and parcel of any team that looses experienced players is minimized if not eradicated.
Life cannot be a bed of roses -- one has to accept the thorns to value the rose. So, too, must the IHF learn to take the good with the bad and accept both positive and negative media mileage.
In conclusion, let me reiterate that it is not my intention to pass judgement on people and their functioning. I sincerely hope this article will be taken for its true worth -- constructive criticism, without prejudice -- for the betterment of our national sport.
Let's hope someone is listening!!
Former India hockey coach and Indian Hockey Federation executive director (coaching) Cedric D'Souza debuts as a Rediff columnist.
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