All the news for Saturday 8 August 2015
Green Machine lose 5-0 against Netherlands
As the Eurohockey Championships (Aug 21st-30th) in London fast approach, 2 fixtures against the Netherlands, world number 2, offers the Irish men’s squad some ideal preparation for the high quality tournament. The Green Machine lost 5-0 to the Dutch this evening, a score line that doesn’t do the men in green justice but yet accurately reflects the clinical performance of the Dutch side.
The first quarter saw the Netherlands test David Harte in the Irish goal on 3 occasions but the ever-reliable Harte ensured the score remained 0-0. The Green Machine had a number of chances as well; Shane O’Donoghue’s drag flick was saved, as were Robson’s and Bruton’s attempts on goal. The deadlock was broken 6 minutes before half time when Mirco Pruijser connected with a deflected ball on the back post. HT NED1 VS 0 IRL
The Dutch made it 2-0 at the start of the second half with a blistering goal from a rebounded Harte save. O’Donoghue and Robson made several darting runs through the heart of the Dutch midfield and defence but the Irish were unable to take advantage of their chances in the circle. The third Dutch goal came from a rebound, the fourth from a PC and the fifth from an inspiring team break that left Harte with little chance.
The match finished 5-0 to the Netherlands, the deserved winners, but the Green Machine had several of their own chances that they’ll surely look to convert when the sides meet again in the final match of the series on Sunday at midday.
Separately, congratulations to Kirk Shimmins who earned his 50th cap today!
FT Ireland 0 vs 5 Netherlands
Team: Harte, Jackson, Gormley, Cargo, Sothern, Caruth, Shimmins, O’Donoghue, M Bell, Carlisle, Robson, Fitzgerald, Good, Bruton, Gleghorne, Harte, Loughrey, O Magee
Irish Hockey Association media release
Share of the spoils as Scotland draw series against Spain
Scotland Senior Women's preparations for the forthcoming EuroHockey Nations Championship continued with a 1-1 series draw against Spain in Madrid this week.
A 1-1 draw in the opening match on Tuesday was followed by a 3-1 win yesterday and a 5-3 reversal in today's final match.
Summarising the Spainish tests, Scotland Senior Women Head Coach Gordon Shepherd said,
"The series has gone very well. Our focus was on games one and two as it mirrors the schedule in the Europeans; game, rest, game. So today we experimented a little and learnt from it. The loss was a good reality check for the players and that we don't get carried away.
"The mood in the camp is excellent."
In temperatures well into the mid-30s, Kaz Marshall's penalty corner strike was Scotland's equalising goal in the first match of the series after the Spaniards had broken the deadlock earlier in the contest, much against the run of play.
Vikki Bunce scored within twenty seconds of the second match, with additional goals from Becky Merchant and Nikki Kidd sealing an excellent win for the Scots.
However, the hosts responded today with a series-levelling 5-3 win in the final match. Despite a Nikki Kidd first half hat-trick, two Spanish goals without reply in the second period ensured a share of the overall spoils.
The next stop for Shepherd's side is London. The opening game of the EuroHockey Nations Championship will be in front of a full-capacity crowd against hosts England on Saturday 21 August.
Scottish Hockey Union media release
Scottish women hoping experienced stars can release potential within team at EuroHockey Championships
Scotland women aiming to impress ahead of Rio 2016
Scotland women are out to impress in London
Scotland women head into the upcoming Unibet EuroHockey Championships 2015 in London looking to build upon their sixth place finish at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Whilst aiming to finish as high as possible at this year's Championship, the Scottish women have an extra incentive.
With the Olympic Games less than a year away, Great Britain coaches will be keeping an eye out over the coming months for any talent that they can call upon from the British nations for Rio 2016. A strong performance at the EuroHockey Championships will certainly give those coaches something to think about as they look to finalise their team selection for the Olympics.
Ranked 17 in the world, Scotland’s team for this year’s Championships will blend a mix of experience with up and coming stars, with Senior Women’s Head Coach Gordon Shepherd already seeing many positives following a number of good results in recent test matches.
On his team selection for the EuroHockey Championships 2015, he said: “As a group of coaches, we’ve been really happy with the players and how they have trained recently. We have three players who will be playing their first international tournament but equally we have a number of players with a lot of experience at this level.”
His selection includes the experienced Emily Maguire who won a bronze medal with Great Britain at the 2012 Olympic Games, while Sarah Robertson and Amy Gibson have also recently been involved in the Great Britain squads.
In preparation for the EuroHockey Championships, Scotland have played a number of test matches over the past couple of months. A 4-3 win against reigning European Champions Germany was one of their highlights in a three nation event in Hamburg, Germany in July.
After losing to Spain in their final game in Hamburg, Scotland then flew on to Madrid, Spain, for a warm weather training camp and three further international matches against their hosts. In their first game the two teams drew 1-1 before Scotland emerged 3-1 winners with one more game still to play.
Earlier in June they won a test series against Wales, before scoring 18 goals in three games against the Czech Republic, with Nikki Lloyd, Vikki Bunce and Kareena Marshall scoring the majority of their goals.
Scotland coach Shepherd explained that all of these games were ideal preparation for the players to get right up to speed ahead of the Europeans with an expectation that his team will be competing and performing at the same level as those nations.
Scotland have been drawn against world number five ranked Germany, seventh ranked England, and 16th ranked Italy. In London they hope to retain their place in the tournament by equalling or improving on their sixth place finish at the last edition of this Championship.
Scotland women: Amy Brodie, Leigh Fawcett, captain (both Grove Menzieshill), Fiona Bruce, Ali Howie, Susan McGilveray, Nicki Skrastin (all Clydesdale Western), Louise Campbell, Nikki Cochrane, Becky Merchant (all Edinburgh University), Vikki Bunce, Becky Ward (both Dundee Wanderers), Aileen Davis (Clifton), Amy Gibson (Slough), Nikki Kidd (Mannheimer), Nikki Lloyd (Canterbury), Emily Maguire (Reading), Kareena Marshall (Western Wildcats), Sarah Robertson (Holcombe).
Palo y Bola inspiring the next generation in Spain
Hockey World League Semi-Final makes its mark with lasting legacy in Valencia
One of the stars of the Spanish women’s national team, Lola Riera, has given her full endorsement to a hockey-focussed project that is currently inspiring the next generation of youngsters in the Spanish city of Valencia.
The project, called ‘Palo y Bola’ which translates to ‘Stick and Ball’, has seen more than 1,000 children across a range of age groups and abilities benefit from the scheme that aims to raise awareness of hockey in schools and colleges across the city and surrounding area.
Palo y Bola is a joint initiative between the Hockey Federation of Valencia (FHCV) and the Trinidad Alfonso Foundation, which is a non-profit-making charity that promotes cultural and community activities in Spain’s third largest city.
The two partners are doing all that they can to promote hockey in the city. Through talks given by players and coaches, video footage and of course, training and playing opportunities, the project’s aim is to raise awareness of hockey amongst the city’s youth. The coaching is organised and carried out by qualified coaching staff from the FHVC.
Speaking of the project, Spain’s Lola Riera, who helped her team to a sixth place finish at the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Final in Valencia, said: “I think it is important to give all children the opportunity to enjoy all sports, not just the majority sports that get all the attention in the media. This is a great initiative.”
Palo y Bola was set up once Valencia learnt it had been chosen as a site for the 2015 HWL Semi-Finals. With such an important hockey tournament coming to the city, it was important that a legacy of the event was passed on.
Through this initiative, which will continue on a regular basis, the FHVC hopes to inspire a new generation of hockey players.
As an added incentive to attract youngsters to the sport, local schools and colleges were invited to watch the HWL League Semi-Finals, where some of the best players in the world were competing for a place in the HWL Final and a spot in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
The youngsters will have seen their national heroes come close to securing both, but Spain were eventually beaten in the quarter-finals by Germany, only after the match went to penalty shoot-out.
Riera, who comes from Valencia, is one of a number of hockey players featured in a promotional video released by the partnership as an introduction to the game. The two-minute long video showcases hockey at its best – fast, fun and action-packed. The video shows the national team and some of the best players from the FHVC in action, the fast-paced footage providing inspiration to the youngsters attending the training sessions.
The Spanish women are busy preparing for the Unibet EuroHockey Championships 2015 taking place in London, England later in August, knowing that is their last chance to secure Olympic qualification.
It is a fair bet that many young Valencian’s will be following their new sporting hero’s progress and cheering the Red Sticks to victory.
East London is getting into hockey!
Activation Euros East London
Exciting times lie ahead for hockey in East London - we have already seen the opening of an iconic venue on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and we can look forward to a series of international events coming to our shores over the next four years, starting of course with the Unibet EuroHockey Championships this August and leading up to the Women's World Cup in 2018.
During this four year period, England Hockey is looking to create “A Community Where Hockey Matters.” The plan is simple - engage with local communities, attract new people to pick up a stick and get along to watch the action at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
England Hockey is investing extensively to build on the opportunity provided by the four major events coming to East London between now and 2018. The vision is being backed by Sport England and the Greater London Authority (GLA) who are investing significantly in a four year development plan. A number of key local partners are also supporting the programme.
The programme, which started in the spring, has seen a group of London businesses attending a work place hockey event, the development of a new midweek league targeting social players and plenty of great schools programmes to encourage pupils to be active and engaged.
It’s an exciting time for Hockey in East London as the sport aims to broaden its appeal. Charlie Farrow Project Manager is pleased, but knows there's more to do!
“We are delighted with the support given by so many key partners and we feel we have made a great start, but there is so much more we want to do. We are busy in the build up to the Unibet EuroHockey Championships, and we will continue to be into the autumn and beyond as we look to get more people playing this great game or watching the international action.”
England Hockey Board Media release
All-local Tenaga show power
By Jugjet Singh
TENAGA Nasional kept a clean record when they edged Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) 3-2 in the Premier Division Of the Malaysia Hockey League Friday.
Playing at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil, UniKL who had lost their opening match 2-1 to Sapura, scored off a first minute penalty corner.
Najmi Farizal's flick gave them the lead, but Shahril Saabah drew level for Tenaga in the 27th minute only to see Nor Aqmal Gaffar (41st) give the Universiti side the lead again.
The match went into high gear after that and Azril Misron (57th) gave Tenaga a lifeline at 2-2, and the winner was claimed by Ramadan Rosli off a field attempt in the 58th.
It was Tenaga's second win, as they had beaten Maybank 2-1 last weekend.
Tenaga have six 2016 Project players, while UniKL have 10 juniors.
"UniKL are a team which plays high press for the entire game, and patience win us the game as we know that they can't keep up the momentum for 60 minutes.
"I'm very proud of my players, as they showed that local players can play good hockey and win matches as well," said Tenaga assistant coach M. Kaliswaran.
UniKL coach Arul Selvaraj blamed the crumble on accountability: "There was no accountability in the last quarter as tiredness crept into my players game and this is an area which I have been working on without success.
"Anyway, even in defeat Im proud to say that there were 16 2016 Project players on both sides and they did show some flare."
Arul is also the Project 2016 squad, which is preparing for the Junior Asia Cup in Kuantan in Novemner. The Cup is a Junior World Cup qualifier, with four teams from Kuantan qualifying for New Delhi next year.
Premier Division: Tenaga Nasional 3 UniKL 2, Maybank x Terengganu HT x, KL Hockey Club x Sapura x.
Division One Group A: MSP-YP-SSP 0 TNB Thunderbolts 2, MSNT-THT 1 MBI 0; Group B: PKS-KPM 4 Nur Insafi 4.
Women's Group A: ATM Pernama 1 The Cops 0, Penang Juniors 0 Politeknik 2, MSN Kedah 1 PKS KPM 3.
Division One Group A: Masum USM v BJSS (KLHA, 5pm); Group B: UniKL Young Guns v Politeknik (National Stadium I, 5pm), UiTM v SSTMI ((National Stadium I, 7pm), ATM Airod v Nur Insafi (Tun Razak, 5pm).
Women's Group B: SSTMI Thunderbolts v KL Sukma (Taman Daya I, 5pm), Manjung v PKS-KPM (Azlan Shah, 8pm), MSN Kedah v UiTM Lions (Padang Serai, 5pm).
Premier Division: Maybank v Sapura (National Stadium II, 6pm), UniKL v KL Hockey Club (National Stadium II, 8pm), Tenaga Nasional v Terengganu HT (National Stadium I, 8pm).
Division One Group A: BJSS v MBI (KPM, 7pm), MSN-THT v TNB Thunderbolts (Batu Buruk, 7pm).
Group B: UniKL Young Guns v SSTMI Thunderbolts ((National Stadium I, 4pm), ATM Airod v PKS-KPM (Tun Razak, 5pm), UiTM v Politeknik (National Stadium I, 6pm).
Women's Group A: MSN-PHT v Politeknik (batu Buruk, 5pm); Group B: Manjung v UiTM Lions (Azlan Shah, 5pm).
Jugjet's World of Field Hockey
Tenaga edge UniKL; Terengganu bounces back in MHL
By S. Ramaguru
Tenaga’s Syed Mohd Syafiq Syed Cholan (left) vies for the ball with UniKL's Meor Mohd Azuan Hasan in a Malaysian Hockey League match at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil. – GLENN GUAN / The Star
KUALA LUMPUR: Tenaga Nasional scored two goals in the last three minutes to eke out a dramatic 3-2 win over Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) in the Premier Division of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).
UniKL went 1-0 up through Mohd Najme Farizal’s penalty corner goal in the first minute. Mohd Shahril Saabah equalised for Tenaga in the 29th minute at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
UniKL went ahead again, this time through Mohd Nor Aqmal Abdul Ghaffar in the 41st minute.
With three minutes to go, Tenaga turned on the power to get two goals through Azril Misron (57th minute) and Mohd Ramadan (58th) for their second win in the MHL.
Tenaga had beaten Maybank 2-1 in their opening match.
UniKL coach A. Arulselvaraj blamed unforced errors for his team’s late collapse.
“Players must take responsibility for their actions. I have told them so many times that we need to be careful in the last quarter. They did not heed my warning. Credit to Tenaga for their fightback,” said Arul, whose team suffered their second straight defeat.
Tenaga assistant coach M. Kalisweran attributed their come-from-behind win to being patient.
“I told the boys not to panic when they were down ... and to stick to the game plan,” said Kalisweran.
“UniKL play an open game and I knew we could exploit the flanks to get the goals. That’s what we did and we scored towards the end of the match.
“It was a good effort by the players. We have a young side and this will only boost their confidence. I’m very happy with this win, especially since we do not have any foreign signings.”
UniKL and Tenaga will be in action again, Saturday. UniKL will face Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) while Tenaga will play champions Terengganu.
Terengganu rebounded from their opening day defeat to record their first win – a 5-1 trouncing of Maybank.
Faizal Saari notched a hat-trick, scoring in the ninth, 29th and 39th minutes. Terengganu’s other goals were scored by Jorge Leandro Tolini (41st) and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin (42nd). Maybank replied through Mohd Amerullah Aziz in the 37th minute.
In their opening matches, Terengganu lost 6-2 to KLHC while Maybank were edge 2-1 by Tenaga.
Former champions KLHC were held to a 3-3 draw by Sapura.
Sapura scored through Norshafiq Sumantri (third minute), Mohd Imran (15th) and Faridzul Afiq (48th). KLHC got theirs through Mohd Razie Rahim (14th), Rashid Baharom (19th) and Mohd Umar Bhutta (37th).
The Star of Malaysia
Title hopefuls Orange, Strathmore renew rivalry at City Park
By BRIAN YONGA
Caroline Guchu of Telkom Orange (left) vies with Strathmore University's Yvonne Wanjiku during the women's final match in the Vaisakhi tournament at City Park Hockey Stadium on April 26, 2015. The two sides clash on August 8, 2015 in the KHU Women's national league. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP
A bruising battle is expected when Kenyan women’s national hockey league champions Telkom Orange take on arch-rivals Strathmore University Scorpions in a top-of-the-table clash Saturday afternoon at City Park Stadium.
The mouth-watering clash is one of nine Kenya Hockey Union (KHU) league matches lined up this weekend in Nairobi, four in the women's league and five in the men's league.
Orange are on a roll, winning their opening five matches where they have scored 48 goals and are yet to concede any goal as they chase a record 18th league crown while Strathmore have not been as clinical but remain two points behind the league leaders and are also unbeaten.
The two teams have already met once this season with Orange recording a resounding 4-0 win over their rivals to lift the Vaisakhi tournament in April.
Orange coach Jos Openda however believes a lot has changed since that game and expects Strathmore to put up an improved performance.
“They (Strathmore) are our biggest challengers for the title and will therefore push us but we are ready for them,” Openda told Nation Sport.
“I believe it will be a top match from two quality sides fighting for the three points.”
Strathmore coach Meshack Senge however sees the fixture as just another game for his charges and urged his players to turn out better than they did during their last encounter.
Senge will be without the influential quartet of Laura Gichau, Doreen Hongo, former Orange player Margaret Rotich and Pauline Naise.
“These are game changing players and it is a blow that they won’t be there but I have confidence that the rest of the squad can get the job done,” the tactician said. In the absence of Rotich, last season’s top scorer Gilly Okumu and Linda Ayodi are expected to lead the university side’s attack.
In the men’s premier league, defending champions Butali Sugar Warriors will be looking to move six points clear at the top with victory in their two weekend matches.
They face United States International University Africa (USIU A) Saturday evening and Kenyatta University on Sunday.
Warriors and second-placed Kenya Police are both on 21 points, but the former sit at the summit owing to their superior goal difference.
“We cannot afford any other slip up, Police gave us a second chance when they lost and we will not throw it away,” Warriors coach Cliffe Okello said.
In other matches, Greensharks welcome Nakuru Hockey Club while Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture (JKUAT) take on National Youth Service (NYS) in the men’s national league.
National women: Vikings v JKUAT – 12pm, Orange v Strathmore – 2pm
Premier men: Greensharks v Nakuru – 4pm, USIU A v Butali - 6pm
National men: JKUAT v NYS - 9am
Premier men: KU v Butali – 11am, USIU A v Nakuru – 1pm
National women: USIU A v Kenyatta – 3pm, JKUAT v MKU - 5pm
India's tour of France and Spain
Don't read too much into the results
There is very little to go gaga over the back-to-back victories for India over France in the two the hockey Test series. True, such outcomes do enhance the psyche of the team a wee-bit, but they cannot be perceived as a panacea to the ills afflicting the national team.
Coming as these results do against the background of the pathetic show in the three matches against Australia, Belgium and Great Britain in the semi-finals of the Hockey World League at Antwerp last month, there is some comfort that the preparations for the finals in India late this year has began well.
There was a tremendous amount of disappointment over the show at Antwerp especially after a decent start in the competition. A podium finish was what the coaches predicted, but that did not come through. The fourth place obtained would have enjoyed some merit if the team had lost by narrow margins.
What accentuated the agony was the contretemps involving the Dutch coach and the Hockey India President, Narinder Batra. After ugly polemics, the coach had to be shunted out for reasons unclear even now, leaving a bitter taste all round.
The nomination of the Coaching Director, Roelant Oltmans as the chief coach for the team till the Olympics at Rio, somewhat smothered the seemingly tragic development over the sacking of van Ass.
The priority was to focus on the WHL finals, which India is hosting. Therefore, the two tours to France and Spain are touted as part of the preparations. The tour of Spain starts from August 10.
It is undeniable that India has fielded much stronger team for the tours than it did under some compulsions of course, for the WHL. This was largely on account of the injuries to several top players, apart from the injury that Rupinderpal Singh sustained before the event. The return of Raghunath, Sunil and Kothajit clearly has enhanced the balance.
Indisputably, Spain is a stronger opponent than France. What lies for the team in this part of the tour remains in the realm of guess. Reports suggest that the Indian team has acquired a lot of rhythm in its work out and a system in the execution of penalty corners.
Gurjinder, the third penalty corner striker after Raghunath and Rupinderpal, performed creditably against France in the second match.
India’s team management should now ensure that the list of injured is empty until the HWL finals in which only a good show will help analyze the chances at Rio.
‘Attitude is now as important as skills to win’
The winning feeling… Sardar Singh is jubilant following India’s victory over Pakistan in the men’s hockey final at the Incheon Asian Games. “Senior players — Raghunath, Sreejesh, Gurbaj and I — have to guide the youngsters and take responsibility. I am sure results will be good,” says the skipper of India’s chances in Rio.
“Everyone knows how to play hockey and everyone is fit. What is important is to understand how to optimise that fitness and effort on the field, how to tackle good teams, how to handle pressure, how to play in knockout games,” says India captain Sardar Singh, in a chat with Uthra Ganesan.
Five coaches in as many years — it does not induce great confidence in a team that is aiming for Olympics success. Indian hockey, though, has become impervious to such chopping and changing, with the players adjusting to a new coach almost automatically. Captain Sardar Singh, however, insists that Roelant Oltmans isn’t exactly someone new, and that the Dutchman may well be the best thing to happen to the team, one year before the Rio Olympics.
As the Indian team prepares for the grind on the final stretch of the road to Rio, the talismanic midfielder speaks about the incumbent coach, the team’s planning for the next one year and its chances in 2016.
Question: The team has a new look, a new coach. How things have changed in the last one month?
Answer: Yeah, it isn’t exactly a situation we had imagined one month ago. But the best thing to have happened after Paul (van Ass) quit is the appointment of Oltmans. All the players were also expecting him to take charge. He has been continuously with us for the past 2-3 years, has watched all players very closely and knows what are the positives and good things in every player. Every time he has been given the responsibility to be the team’s coach, the results have been good.
His strategy is very simple; there are just a handful of rules to follow and all the players know them. His way of explaining things is also very easy and we are looking at keeping things simple in training and the team. See, everyone at this level knows how to play hockey and everyone is fit. It’s only about executing and using your skills on the ground during matches. We will now have to sit together and hold meetings to work them out further.
Adjusting to a new coach takes at least 3-4 months and a couple of tournaments, but van Ass wasn’t around for long. How much did the team change under his charge?
Not much. It takes at least a year with a new coach to understand each other. With Terry (Walsh), the training and pressing up on an opponent during attack was very different from what Paul tried to do. If you change the way of playing, every player must know the changes and the difference in their roles. But it would have taken time to become a part of the team’s game-plan. It would have built up slowly, playing more matches and tournaments under him and more training sessions, but things ended before that. He had also changed a lot of players’ positions on the field in Antwerp — like playing Gurbaj Singh as right linkman instead of right-half and moving Dharamveer from midfield to forward — and maybe, in the long term, it would have been better. But you don’t know because it didn’t happen.
So what would be the structure of the team for the tour of Europe — the new one as envisaged by van Ass or the older one?
At the Shilaroo camp under Oltmans and during the selection trials, we played the normal structure with players in their usual positions. So, we expect to play in the older style under him, not the new ones tried out in Antwerp.
Oltmans is known to be a taskmaster on the field. How easy or difficult is it to interact with someone like him?
In fact, it is good that he is strict. After all, this is the national team. We have already had a team meeting and he has made it clear that indiscipline outside the team leads to indiscipline within the team. He has categorically said, ‘Even if the best player in the team is spreading anything negative, it will not be tolerated and the player will be thrown out. Do not give me chance to take strict actions’. If you are a good person outside the team and also give your 100 percent during and matches, there is nothing else left for you to do.
Speaking about indiscipline, can you explain what exactly happened with Gurbaj Singh?
Personally, I did not feel anything wrong during the Hockey World League Semi-finals in Antwerp. As a captain and a senior player of the side, it is my duty to know what the players are doing and I should know what is happening in my team. I also try to talk to all the players personally to find out if they have any problems. When I was told about this, I did not speak to the press or even Gurbaj for two days. I only spoke to all the other players and did not find anyone indicating anything of the sort. I then sat with Gurbaj and the coach and spoke about it at length. We have now decided to meet the special committee that was formed to evaluate the team’s performance and get it all cleared soon.
When no player had a problem, why do you think some staff member gave an adverse report?
`Roelant Oltmans' strategy is very simple; there are just a handful of rules to follow and all the players know them. His way of explaining things is also very easy and we are looking at keeping things simple in training and the team.' SANDEEP SAXENA
To be honest, I can’t say. What I have found is that some of the reports submitted said Gurbaj had been undisciplined with some member of the staff. You know how it is in India, how respect and discipline are considered very important. Maybe, he did not wish something of that sort happened; I can’t say. What I can say is that Gurbaj has been doing really well for quite some time and he is a very important member of the side, both due to his experience and skills. Last tournament also we had five senior players missing and it affected the team. Hopefully, he will sit with Hockey India and sort it out soon and return to the side. And when he does, as a senior player, he should talk to the juniors and take everyone along and prove that all this talk of spreading negativity is completely wrong. It is not a big issue, but we do not have much time, so these things should end soon.
What changes do you see in the team in the next one year, and what are the team’s chances at the Rio Olympics?
There is not much time. The good thing is that we have a coach whom we have known for some time. Everyone knows how to play hockey and everyone is fit. What is important is to understand how to optimise that fitness and effort on the field, how to tackle good teams, how to handle pressure, how to play in knockout games. Senior players — Raghunath, Sreejesh, Gurbaj and I — have to guide the youngsters and take responsibility. I am sure results will be good.
Any specific areas the team is concentrating on?
Yes, a lot in fact. We are working on our ball movement, positioning and the entire team structure — forward, midfield and defence — plus we are concentrating on penalty corner attack.
There is a talk of getting a mental trainer for the team for short stints. How much of a difference do you think it will make?
A lot. See, attitude is now as important as skills to win. Only yesterday I was thinking, when we play Test matches we play brilliantly against all teams, but during tournaments things change. The fact that there is a lot more at stake, the crowd, the national flags flying high, the entire atmosphere, everything affects you. Even I struggled to adapt when I came into the national side.
When you see foreign players in top teams, you cannot identify who is a junior player and who is a senior player, because their structure is such that they are used to tough outings.
We have wanted one (mental trainer) for a long time now, especially against the 5-6 top teams in the world, and it is good that we will now have someone until the Olympics.
The new format, followed in various tournaments, will also be used at the Olympics. Which means it will be easy to play the quarterfinals and that one game can ensure a top-four finish. So how is the team looking at the whole format?
At the moment, we are waiting to see which teams are in our pool, and then we will plan accordingly. Of course, we will try to win matches and finish higher up in the pool to ensure a clash with a lower-placed side in the other pool. Yes, the format is helpful because it is easy to reach quarters. But we cannot take anything lightly. After all, it’s the Olympics.
Ranchi Rays retains its best players for HIL
Ranchi Rays team posing with the trophy after winning the HIL in New Delhi on February 22, 2015. Photo: Sandeep Saxena
Defending champions Ranchi Rays have decided to retain their English captain Ashley Jackson and five other key players for the upcoming and the next season of the Hockey India League.
Besides Jackson, Barry Middleton (also from England), defender Birendra Lakra, and Indian players Kothajit Singh and Manpreet Singh along with Australian defender Fergus Kavanagh have been retained by the team.
Jackson had scored 12 goals to help his team to clinch the 2015 HIL title.
Among the 12 goals, he converted 11 penalty corners and became the top-scorer of the HIL and also the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament.
Middleton also proved to be a versatile with four goals.
Lakra led the defence of the Ranchi Rays and has been an integral part of the team. Apart from him, Kothajit Singh holds the defence of the team.
Both the players have played more than 100 international matches and their vast experience will solidify the defence-line of the team.
Speaking on their retained players, Ranchi Rays stated, .
“All the players retained by us were hugely instrumental towards our win in the third edition of the Hockey India League. The players held back by us are a good mix of defenders as well as strikers.”
Speaking on Ranchi Rays’ decision to retain him, Lakra said, “The presence of Ashley is very important for us as he knows the inside-out of the team and we enjoy playing under his leadership.”
Bring back the stars
By K. Keerthivasan.
The Indian Oil Corporation team, stacked with former India players, deservedly won the 89th MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup.
Despite the lack of star attraction, the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup had a decent footfall, with many thronging the venue for the final. Presence of national stars would have added more quality and glamour to the meet. All stakeholders need to get together to ensure that. If the value and the relevance of major domestic events recede, it will hit the national sport where it hurts most: at its very core.
The 89th edition of the hallowed MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup was won by a determined Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) team in Chennai recently. The meet, which was once an integral part of the country’s hockey calendar, has dropped down the pecking order, with top national players giving it a miss again.
Tournaments like the Bombay Gold Cup, Beighton Cup, Aga Khan Memorial, Surjit Singh Memorial, which have always provided a platform for youngsters to test their skills against the seasoned names of Indian hockey, suffer from a similar fate. This lack of star appeal has inversely affected the popularity of these events.
V. Baskaran, the skipper of the Indian team which last won the gold medal in the Olympics at the 1980 Moscow Games, perhaps to emphasise the point, asks a pertinent question: “When did you last see Sardar Singh play in Chennai?”
The answer is: a very, very long time ago. The current powerhouse of Indian hockey last played in the Southern city, as a part of the Indian Hockey Federation’s (IHF) junior team, in 2005. Taking the argument further, Baskaran adds: “How will you promote the sport if your top player doesn’t play in any domestic tournament?”
The national players were attending a camp in Shilaroo (Shimla), ahead of its European tour, and were not released to play the Murugappa Gold Cup by Hockey India.
“The older, local tournaments have lost its charm because of this (absence of top national players). They are not as popular as they used to be. Maybe the Murugappa Gold Cup is slightly better off, but most of these tournaments have little or no patronage,” Baskaran says. The former international wants the state associations to work closely with the tournament organisers and take up the responsibility of liaising with Hockey India to ensure a star-studded field.
Reminiscing the heydays of the Murugappa Gold Cup, he recalls: “The team for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics was picked on the basis of their performance in the Murugappa Gold Cup. Only the presence of top Indian players can promote the game.”
Taking a similar line, Conroy Remedios — the coach of the Mumbai men’s team — says: “In the 1980s and 90s, the stadiums used to be full. People would bunk work and come to the grounds early. Now, even the hockey players don’t come and watch these tournaments.”
Opponents were left flummoxed by IOC's Deepak Thakur's (left) guile. M. VEDHAN
He recalls the presence of Dhanraj Pillay, Sabu Varkey and Sandeep Somesh — top players of that time — in the 1999 edition of the Murugappa Gold Cup. “Almost all the top Indian internationals played that tournament. Every team had an international player. There were banners everywhere: ‘Come and watch Dhanraj play’. Organisers will attract a lot more people if they can put up a banner, which reads: ‘Come and watch Sardar.’ Every domestic tournament needs the participation of at least five to six players from the national setup to rekindle the public’s interest in hockey. Last year, top players like V. R. Raghunath took part in the Bombay Gold Cup and then joined the national camp after the final.”
Taking a different view, Mohammed Riaz, one of the star midfielders of the late 90s, feels the Murugappa Gold Cup still retains some of its charm, despite the absence of the star players. “People won’t come and watch it if it had lost its charm,” he says. “With India preparing for the 2016 Rio Olympics, it might not be possible to always release players from camps.”
Adam Sinclair, a member of the Indian squad for the 2004 Athens Olympics, also subscribes to the “overburn” theory and is of the opinion that the national coach might be reluctant to release players to protect them from injuries. He, however, laments the overall drop in standard at these “older” tournaments. “The standards have come down over the last decade. Even at this year’s Murugappa tournament, there were no proper man-marking or exhibition of great tactical play. Only IOC and Punjab & Sind Bank, which had former India players in their squads, played well,” he says. “The youngsters were not up to the mark.”
Deepak Thakur, an India veteran at 34, was the highest scorer at this year’s meet with 10 goals. “A small feint from Deepak brought defenders down. It was more one-touch hockey, the European style. There was no grace or style. These youngsters are in a transition phase,” Sinclair says. Lamenting the absence of players from the Indian side, K. K. Poonacha, who represented India in the 1994 World Cup, says: “If Indian players don’t play in domestic tournaments, there will be no competition. Players are even missing from the Senior Nationals and this is not a good sign. Maybe the prize money for these meets can be increased to attract the top players.”
Thakur minces no words in his criticism. “I have no idea why players in the camp aren’t playing in domestic tournaments. Maybe they are scared that they will be exposed when they play in domestic events. If you look over the last five years, it has been the same set of players, who are representing the national team,” he says. “There will be healthy competition only if national players participate in major domestic tournaments. The youngsters will get a chance to play against the best and the top players will also be on their toes, trying to stay ahead of the competition.”
Hockey India President Narinder Batra says there is no rigid rule that stops players, attending national camps, from playing in domestic meets. He, however, says it’s not always possible to release players. “You don’t want to break a camp when the team is preparing for a major European tour, ahead of the Olympics. We don’t want to create any confusion (amongst the players), especially at a time when Roelant Oltmans (High Performance Director and coach) has devised a specific training schedule for them. The coach’s message should reach the players well and clear. It is not about players getting injured,” he says. “But, we do have selectors at major domestic tournaments to pick promising players.”
The hockey India supremo also says that players will be asked to participate in domestic meets when there are no major international commitments. “We might send an India A or B team for a major domestic tournament in the future,” he adds.
Despite the lack of star attraction, the Murugappa Gold Cup had a decent footfall, with many thronging the venue for the final. Presence of national stars would have added more quality and glamour to the meet. All stakeholders need to get together to ensure that. If the value and the relevance of major domestic events recede, it will hit the national sport where it hurts most: at its very core.