SINGAPORE - There appears to be a "silver lining" for Indianhockey despite the long faces at failing to improve upon their eighth-place finish of the last edition of World Cup hockey. India grabbed the No. 9 spot with a 3-0 win over Asian champions South Korea at the Kyocera Stadium, in Holland, on June 14.
India's big target now is the Asian Games in Seoul in September, where the gold-medallist gets an automatic ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. And that's what this new-look India is determined to do under Australian coach Terry Walsh and assistant Jude Felix (the former Indian World Cup skipper, who spent a decade in Singapore until last year, coaching Singapore Recreation Club).
Assistant coach Jude Felix, who will be in charge of preparatory camp for next month's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, declined to comment when contacted by tabla!.
Coach Walsh was upbeat. He told NDTV News: "I see a silver lining for Indian hockey at the Asiad after close-call matches at the World Cup. This team is constantly searching for improvement. They're never afraid to try something new, for nothing is constant except change."
Walsh was hoping for a top-six finish, but set top-eight as the target. India lost three of their five pool matches (3-2 Belgium, 2-1 England and 4-0 Australia), won one (3-2 Malaysia) and drew 1-1 with Spain. The team's habit of conceding late goals came to the fore after they allowed Belgium and England to score seconds before the final whistle. India finished fifth in the six-team pool.
Former India Under 21 coach Panakal Auso Raphael, now residing in Melbourne, told tabla! the 2014 World Cup has resulted in the decimation of Asian hockey. The three Asian men's teams have been relegated to the last four positions in the 12-nation event: India (ninth), South Korea (No. 10) and Malaysia (No. 12).
Raphael, a Federation of International Hockey accredited coach, who has also coached national teams in Thailand, Singapore and Macau, said: "World sport is constantly changing and hockey is no exception. The changes, in every department of the game are so great, that it is beyond recognition to the hockey played while we ruled the world. Now that India has finished No. 9, it is time that we accept the fact that there is a wake-up call which has been ringing far too long. It is left to us whether we want to really wake up or keep sleeping."
Walsh told The Indian Express that the new-look team is trying to mix the Asian and European styles of hockey that can be troublesome for rivals.
"We've been mixing a bit of the Asian and European styles, but we are far from perfect. We have some way to go and we're working at it," said Walsh. "It's a long-drawn process, but I am confident the signs of change will soon become evident," added Walsh, who went on to compliment captain Sardar Singh and the team members for trying to adapt the European style into their game.
Fans of Indian hockey will be hoping his plans bear fruit in September.
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