The delightfulness did not take a long time to transform into despair; courtesy: two devastating defeats suffered by India in the Azlan Shah Hockey tournament.
After overwhelming Malaysia, there was a debate over the route for India, the defending champion with Korea, to figure in the fourth successive final. Consequently after the abominable 3-7 reverse against New Zealand and following the 1-3 score with Pakistan, the discussion zeroed on whether India can at least take the sixth place. The consolation is that India cannot be out of the board.
Against New Zealand, India had that luxury more than once; to be more precise, thrice. Yet it slumped into one of the worst ever disasters in its illuminating history. And yes, the humiliation against the Kiwis was a painful reality though the Indian team enjoyed the initial advantage of moving first into the lead (Including the match against Pakistan).
The second half in both matches is easily explainable due to the failure in the defensive zone, and most notably, under the bar. It is high time the coach and the players introspect as to why this occurs in successive matches too.
While inconsistency is an accepted point but the efforts to keep the ball in possession had cost the team dear. Many a times, the players resorted to back passing during which the rivals derived enough time and space to run into.
With the defenders unable to take heavy pressure for long and imperfection in trapping beyond an acceptable measure, it spelt disaster for the team.
Excessive stress on Mahadik in the deep defense, repeated errors in the mid-field and lack of cohesion among the layers coupled with poor alignment of the frontline when required resulted in disastrous results.
A critical evaluation of the seniors like Shivendra Singh as the pivot in the attack showed that it was a flop rendering the little frontline homogeneity.
Wing half Gurbaj Singh did no credit to his competence as generator of moves and nor did Vikram Pillay, who worked hard but without imagination.
Arjun Halappa was pushed too far to take more than required work load by Sarwanjit who proved to be inadequate. The form of the two goal-keepers, Adrian and Chetri too was extremely short-lived. The team now returns home with a host of problems for the coach, whose tenure remains unsure now.
The first step towards preparing to obtain a 2012 Olympic spot has not taken off in the anticipated way. The whole programme must be carefully re-planned and restructured according to the present day performance of the players keeping in mind the various loop holes that has surfaced recently.