Four years after the Indian hockey team finished last at the London Olympics, the men stood on the same turf with their heads held high, silver medals at the elite Champions Trophy gleaming around their necks. It was a historic win, the second podium finish at a major international competition in six months and, going into the Olympics, an indicator of how much India has advanced. The team lost in a shootout, but holding world champion Australia goalless for 60 minutes was in itself commendable, given that no one except the players believed it could be done. That it came a day after losing 4-2 to the same opposition makes it more impressive. It is the culmination of a long process that often threatened to derail. The process began with Spanish coach Jose Brasa and trainer Jesus Garcia Pallares in 2009 soon after the team missed the Olympic bus for the first time. Pallares was the man who brought science into training despite a very brief stay. It continued with David John who assisted Michael Nobbs and then Jason Konrath and now Matthew Eyles. Despite the exit of several coaches in this period, the team always had a good trainer to ensure that fitness did not suffer.
India’s performance was notable in a number of ways. It had the least experienced side with an average of 79.27 games per player (compared to 140 for Britain and 160 for Belgium). Despite resting many key players, the young side held its own against experienced opponents. The team’s improved fitness is noticeable. Till recently, it was difficult for an Indian player to keep pace with an Australian. In the final, the Australians struggled to break free. There is also a belief in the team that they belong in the top order. There is hurt at not being able to put one across Australia, and that pain is critical. A team without the hunger to win cannot be expected to strive for it. There is a lot to do still. India conceded too many penalty corners and earned too few. There is too much dependence on P.R. Sreejesh in goal-keeping, and when he has an off-day, India struggles. But these issues can be resolved. Once Indian teams played with five in attack. In the final, it had the same number in defence. The team not only changed its entire gameplan but also stifled Australia by sheer dint of stamina and willpower within 24 hours of looking ragged. That deserves to be appreciated.
Source : The Hinud