The Indian hockey team’s performance at the London Olympics should not come as a surprise, their superlative showing in the six-nation Olympic Qualifier in New Delhi earlier this year notwithstanding.
Sadly, it has been underlined yet again that the former hockey powerhouse is just not good enough when it comes to getting on top of quality opposition like the Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany and South Korea.
Drag flicker Sandeep Singh was the star of the tournament scoring 16 goals in the Olympic qualifiers but he disappointed on the bigger stage. The wait for a medal has been long and frustrating and the 1980 Olympics at Moscow where V Bhaskaran’s team struck gold, seems centuries away.
And current skipper Bharat Chetri’s optimism over winning gold like the 1948 London Games team, now looks all the more silly.
On the other hand, Australian coach Michael Nobbs made all the right noises in his pre-Olympics press briefings and did not provide false hope. After all, to expect a medal would have been far-fetched. Instead, he went about his job quietly and made a difference to the team’s fitness and agility.
He has hit out at the players’ commitment levels and his hard talk should be taken in the right spirit. He has been given the responsibility of making the team a better and fitter outfit and he should be given time.
The planning for the Rio Olympics should start now. There is talent, but it has to be channeled and the aspect of fitness can never be underestimated. It is this aspect which sets apart two talented individuals.
India’s hockey fans will be undoubtedly disillusioned. They must extend their patience.