The Indian men’s hockey team winning a medal in the Olympics after 41 years and the women’s team doing extraordinarily well are indications that something is being done right by those in charge. That they did not win Gold indicates that more needs to be done. Both factors have to be identified and improved upon to regain India’s traditional dominance in the game.
Going by the fightbacks and determined holding on to dominant positions, it is clear that Indian hockey players are mentally in a good place. The individual skills have considerably improved, particularly among the women, as have the tactical passes. Attacks have been built up methodically, if not entirely pushed through effectively. Impasses, when opposing sides are unable to break through each other’s defences, can best be overcome by the art of dribbling and solo runs. The forwards in the men’s team did display this capability at critical moments, but not often enough. Against the powerful and aggressive teams, their physical fitness also seemed inadequate in the latter part of the games.
It is expected that after all the celebrations are over, the teams will be summoned to camps for a thorough review of the performance, with each game analysed from the Indian point of view. Every player should retain a comprehensive memory of how they played so that they can work on improving their skills.
India’s cricketers play the game almost the year round. This keeps them competition ready and their skills honed. Something similar has to be done for hockey. It shouldn’t be that the stars of the Olympics spend several months just languishing at home and gathering rust. There will be a wave of interest in the game after the Olympic performance which should be cashed in by the administrators to obtain corporate funding for competitions from the Tehsil level up that will draw spectators, media coverage and advertisers. The better prospects and enhanced glamour will also attract fresh talent to the sport. Merely resting on their laurels will not do – strike while the iron is hot.