Inconsistency has been plaguing Indian hockey for quite some time and the hosts need to address it before squaring off against Rio Olympic bronze medallists Germany in their final pool match of the Hockey World League Final at Bhubaneshwar on Monday. Outstanding in one match but disastrous in another, near-perfect in one game but sloppy in the next – this has been Indian men’s hockey team’s sorry tale for the last few years.
With the Asia Cup in the bag, it’s about time the Blue Sticks do away with their inconsistent habit if they desire to be a force to reckon with at the world stage. Much was expected from the Indian team after the 1-1 draw against Australia in their opening match but inconsistency came back to haunt the hosts as they produced a below-par performance to lose 2-3 against England, a side which is one rung below them in the world rankings at seven.
With one draw and one loss, India is currently at the bottom in Pool B with one point. The pool is being led by the Germans who have four points with one win and a draw. Even though the pool matches are there only to decide who plays whom in the quarter-finals, the Indians will be desperate to prove their critics wrong.
Placed at no 6, India is just a spot below Germany in the rankings and Sjoerd Marijne’s men will have to curb their inconsistency if they have to outmanoeuvre the European powerhouse.
In fact, Marijne will need to address this area if India hopes to be a medal contender not just here but also in next year’s three big events – the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the World Cup. “We really need to work on our consistency. For me the big question is why we drop our level. That’s what we need to talk about because if you have reasons you can improve,” a disappointed Marijne had said after the England defeat.
The superlative performance against Australia was followed by a poor show on Saturday with England dominating proceedings from the start. In all departments of the game, Manpreet and co were found wanting. While the strikers were guilty of frequent miss-trapping, the defence was at its sloppiest best, which handed England’s Sam Ward two goals.
It was not as if India didn’t have their moments. The hosts came from two goals down to draw level in the fourth quarter, only to throw away the game minutes later. “That are part of the game and you want to avoid it of course. Players don’t do it with purpose but that cost us the game,” the coach said about his team’s defensive frailties.
If India finish at the bottom of their pool, they will have to face the top placed team of Pool A. Meanwhile, in the first match of Pool B Australia will take on England.
(With inputs from PTI)