'Pathetic' India got lucky to finish with bronze: Ajit Pal

New Delhi: World Cup-winning former captain Ajit Pal Singh feels India were "pathetic" in the group stage of the Hockey World League Final before they got "lucky" to notch up a bronze, ending a 33-year wait for a medal at a major international tournament.

"The tournament format was such that all eight teams made the quarterfinals. If you analyse India's performance in the league stage, they were pathetic barring the drawn game against Germany. Then anything was possible from the knockout stage and India did well to beat England in the quarters and then Netherlands for the bronze," Ajit Pal told PTI today.

"A medal is a positive sign but our team has to be a lot more consistent than what they have been, if they are to do well in the Olympics next year. The Hockey World League is a new tournament and can't be compared to the World Cup or Olympics. Having said that, the boys worked for the medal last night," the 68-year-old said a day after India stunned The Netherlands in a shoot-out to finish third in Raipur.

The last time India won a medal in a big event was back in 1982, when they beat Pakistan for the bronze in Champions Trophy.

The hosts were listless in the group games, failing to win a match and scoring just four goals in three matches. That trend changed in the quarters where they beat England 2-1 and hammered five past the Dutch before the shoot-out last night. "Indians were just way too erratic in the tournament. I won't name the players but they lacked creativity while scoring field goals and the penalty corner conversion rate was not great either.

"The defence was porous as it was evident last night when they allowed Netherlands to score two quick goals in the dying minutes and level the match at 5-5 for the shoot-out.

Improvement in all these areas is a must for the team to have any chance of performing in the Olympics and the World Cup.

"In Raipur, the first two matches were practically warm-ups but that won't be the case in Olympics," added Ajit Pal echoing the views of chief coach Roelant Oltmans, who also expects consistency from his wards.

Another great and Ajit Pal's teammate in the 1975 World Cup, Ashok Kumar, also wants the team to be more consistent.

"There were two Indian teams that played in the tournament for me. One turned up in the league stage, where their performance was bad, and another one in the knockouts where they played like a world-class outfit. If they can maintain their showing of the wins against England and Netherlands for a longer period of time, you can expect a positive result at the Olympics," said Ashok Kumar.

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