All the news for Monday 26 January 2009
Kookaburras win first series under Ric Charlesworth
The Kookaburras have made the best possible start to Ric Charlesworth's coaching career with the team, claiming their first series win under the legendary coach after drawing one all with the Netherlands in Perth tonight.
Victories to the Kookaburras in games two and three of the series were enough to secure the series, with the Netherlands' only win of the series coming in game one.
The Netherlands, still stinging from Friday night's heavy 7-3 loss at the hands of the Kookaburras, began tonight's match a more determined team which saw them produce some skillful hockey early in the match.
Needing to win by four goals or more to claim the best of four series, the Netherlands got off to the perfect start with three time World Player of the Year Teun de Nooijer swooping on a save from Kookaburras goalkeeper Ross Meadows to hand them an early lead.
With prolific scorers Eddie Ockenden and Des Abbott missing from the Kookaburras line up the Aussies were forced to find other ways to goal, with Eli Matheson and Russell Ford the key targets up forward.
Midfielder Fergus Kavanagh was also used up forward at various stages however the Netherlands defence proved impenetrable as they flooded the circle, reducing the amount of space the Kookaburras had to work with close to goal.
Simon Orchard used his athleticism well to create movement throughout the midfield and the Kookaburras eventually generated a scoring opportunity via a penalty corner attempt at the 20 minute mark.
Unfortunately Luke Doerner's shot on goal beat the Dutch keeper but hit the crossbar, denying the Kookaburras a chance to draw the match.
When the Dutch were awarded their own penalty corner only minutes later it appeared a distinct possibility that the visitors could further extend their lead. However a brilliant save from Meadows in goal ensured the lead remained only one goal.
Towards the end of the half the Kookaburras began to open up the play and generate more movement in the circle, however they were unable to find a goal in the first half.
The game remained a tight affair early in the second half, a contrast to Friday night's high scoring match which saw a total of 10 goals scored.
However the Kookaburras continued to work hard in search for an equaliser and if not for a brilliant save from the Dutch goalkeeper at the 38 minute mark they would have found it.
Eventually the Kookaburras persistence paid off and Jamie Dwyer equaled the match by converting a penalty stroke at the 44 minute mark.
As the second half continued the match remained tight, with neither team willing to give an inch.
With only minutes remaining the style of the match altered, with both teams attacking at all costs in a bid to secure the win.
Although the Kookaburras came close to scoring on several occasions it wasn't to be, with the scores remaining locked and the Kookaburras claiming the series.
Kookaburras coach Ric Charlesworth said he expected a tough finish to the series and overall he and the team learnt a lot from their first outing together.
"After Friday night's match I expected this one to be tough. Good teams like the Netherlands are capable of playing this style of hockey, and we must now learn how to crack open the game when our opposition shuts us down, which we were unable to do tonight," said Charlesworth.
"Overall I think some of our younger players have shown that they can play at this level which is exciting for the future of our team," said Charlesworth.
Kookaburras 1 Netherlands 1 (0-1 half time)
Goals - Ned De Nooijer 11m FG, Aus Dwyer 44m PS
Kookaburras v Netherlands Series Summary
Game 1 - Netherlands 4 Kookaburras 2
Game 2 - Kookaburras 4 Netherlands 2
Game 3 - Kookaburras 7 Netherlands 3
Game 4 - Kookaburras 1 Netherlands 1
Kookaburras win series with two victories.
Hockey Australia media release
Australia draw 1-1 with Netherlands to secure victory in four-match series
AUSTRALIA have claimed their first series win under coach Ric Charlesworth after drawing 1-1 with the Netherlands in Perth on Sunday night.
Victories in games two and three were enough to secure the series after the Netherlands had won the opening game 4-2.
The Dutch, stinging from Friday night's 7-3 loss, were determined the make a better showing and three-time world player of the year Teun de Nooijer swooped on a loose ball after Kookaburras goalkeeper Ross Meadows had saved to score in the 11th minute.
With prolific scorers Eddie Ockenden and Des Abbott missing from the Kookaburras line-up, the Aussies were forced to find other ways to goal, with Eli Matheson and Russell Ford the key targets up forward.
Midfielder Fergus Kavanagh was also used up as a forward at various stages, but the Netherlands defence proved impenetrable as they flooded the circle, reducing the amount of space the Kookaburras had to work with close to goal.
The game remained tight early in the second half, but the Kookaburras' persistence paid off when Jamie Dwyer equalised by converting a penalty stroke in the 44th minute.
Charlesworth said he and the players had learned a lot from their first outing together.
"After Friday night's match, I expected this one to be tough," Charlesworth said.
"Good teams like the Netherlands are capable of playing this style of hockey, and we must now learn how to crack open the game when our opposition shuts us down, which we were unable to do tonight.
"Overall I think some of our younger players have shown that they can play at this level, which is exciting for the future of our team."
Netherlands head for clean sweep of USA series
Sunday's match against the Netherlands was an official contest for the USA with players appearing earning a cap. The final score was 7-1 for the Dutch.
The USA came out strong to start the contest; striker Tiffany Snow scored the U.S. within the first 45 seconds.
"This match was a much better performance for the USA until fatigue caused some defensive lapses," said Head Coach Bodimeade. The USA is in preparations for the Pan Am Cup in Febrary. "A much improved offensive structure and defensive coordination meant we were a lot happier with the performance."
Monday is the final game between the USA & Dutch. It will not be an official cap, but will solidify a strong preparation period for the USA heading to the Pan American Cup in a week's time.
Happy birthday to National Team striker Keli Smith.
USFHA media release
East Grinstead's 8 tops Mantell's 5
East Grinstead won a dramatic and pulsating men’s final at the National Indoor Arena that had twists and turns, heartache and triumph in equal measure, and despite not leading until the final two minutes. In the end though, German Martin Haner and Captain Scott Ashdown led East Grinstead’s assault on the National Indoor Hockey Championships with Championship final hat-tricks to help cancel out the five goals scored by Reading’s Beijing Olympian Simon Mantell.
12 months ago East Grinstead suffered defeat in the final by Loughborough Students. Two years ago it was Canterbury that dashed their European dream. Today it was so nearly Reading who inflicted yet more pain on EG.
The final match of the day started like a game of ping pong with a fantastic opening ten minutes that produced goalmouth action at both ends and saw four goals in the space of three minutes. Reading ‘keeper Nick Brothers was the first to be called into action as he saved with his legs from Haner while at the other end Giles Dakin had to be smart to smother Simon Mantell at the back post.
The opening goal was on the cards and it came from the stick of the younger Mantell brother after quick thinking from Jonty Clarke. Quick thinking from Jonty Clarke on the right hand side saw an early taken free hit finding Mantell in front of goal; his slide deflecting the ball in for 1-0.
At the other end Brothers saved from another Beijing Olympian, Ashley Jackson, and when East Grinstead’s Haner received the ball at the top of the circle from the breakaway pass he did well to score from a low shot while avoiding the attentions of three Reading defenders.
In the sixth minute Clarke turned on the style with mesmeric skill carrying him through the heart of the East Grinstead team before slipping the ball to Simon Mantell at the back post for his and Reading’s second. Not to be outdone Ashley Jackson showed what he is capable of within 60 seconds of the restart, scoring from the left hand side of the D to make it two apiece.
It was probably a good thing that the next few minutes saw a rare period of calm as East Grinstead saw more of the ball and were rewarded with a couple of penalty corners. Controversy followed the second of the corners as the umpires ruled Jackson’s low shot had hit a Reading foot on the line and despite the protestations of Simon Mantell in particular the penalty stroke was awarded. Reading will feel that justice was done however when Jackson blazed his stroke wide of the goalkeeper’s right hand post as Brothers was heading the other way and the scoreline remained 2-2.
Reading regained the upper hand in the 17th minute when Clarke and Mantell combined once again with an almost telepathic understanding to create Mantell’s hat-trick goal. In a fashion that was now becoming the norm for this match the lead lasted just three minutes with EG netting the equaliser from another set piece; this time James Southgate pulled the ball out to Haner at the top of the circle who slid the ball left to Scott Ashdown for his first of the game. 3-3 at the break.
The second half began much as the first had with chances at both ends but the scores remained level largely due to some good goalkeeping from Dakin and good tackling from Reading’s back pair.
Three minutes into the half Simon Mantell was unlucky to see an early deflection from an acute angle come back off the post but he got his reward, and his fourth goal, a minute later with a good pick-up on the right hand side of the circle that took Dakin out of play, allowing him to flick the ball home. 4-3 Reading.
East Grinstead were not about to lie down though and Glenn Kirkham showed their intent as he forced Brothers into another good save, which Ashley Jackson followed up with some battling tackling in the midfield to win the ball back from the Reading men.
It looked like it would be Simon Mantell’s dream day as he scored his and Reading’s fifth with 12 minutes remaining to make it 5-3 but EG came back at Reading as Jackson and Mark Pearn combined to set up the young Olympian for his second of the game. East Grinstead then equalised at 5-5 with six minutes remaining; Martin Haner unleashing an unstoppable flick from a penalty corner.
Four minutes later and with just two minutes left on the clock Haner gave East Grinstead the lead for the first time as he dispatched an identical effort beyond Brothers to make it 6-5 East Grinstead and complete his National Indoor Hockey Championships Final hat-trick.
Desperately in need of a goal Reading replaced Brothers with a ‘kicking back’ but it only opened up the game for East Grinstead to seal the victory; Scott Ashdown taking full advantage with two goals on the breakaway to give East Grinstead a memorable victory and leave Reading and their hero Simon Mantell broken.
Reading’s coach Dick Clarke said “The guys played to the game plan really well. We had a great chance to go 6-4 clear towards the latter stages, but they were rocking by then. I really thought we could win it, but they’re a good side and we really ran them close tonight.”
GB and England player Glenn Kirkham commented “It’s been a brilliant day. Having come so close in the last couple of years, it’s been a big step to take that final hurdle and win the Championship. We know Reading are a top side and they pushed us all the way in a fantastic match that I thought was really entertaining for the crowd.”
Today saw double success for the 2008 Olympian as Kirkham’s coaching helped The Perse School to a 5-3 victory over Ipswich School in the Boy’s Under 18 Final the same morning. Of that win he said “I’m really proud of the lads. They’ve won the U16 [title] for the last two years, but I’ve not been able to be there, so to win it with the lads is just brilliant.”
Reading’s prolific goalscorer said: “I’m completely gutted to lose, especially in that way when we were leading for most of the game. Indoors is one of those games that can swing either way quite quickly.”
The younger of the Mantell brothers scored all five of Reading’s goals but said “Obviously the most important thing is the win, and at the moment, that [devastation] is the dominant feeling.”
RICHARD ORGAN “We won it [National Indoor Hockey Championships title] three years ago and got very close the last two years, and this year we just thought we were that little but stronger with Martin from Germany and Ash and Glenn from GB. We’ve also developed as a squad and I just thought they did really well across the two games.
“I thought we played some very nice hockey in what was a very exciting final. We need to entertain and we need to score goals and Reading played a part in that. I just thought it was a really good advert for what it [indoor hockey] is – it’s exciting, it’s fun, it’s loads of goals and it was a great way to end the day”.
EAST GRINSTEAD 8 (3)
Martin Haner 5,34,38 (F,PC,PC)
Ashley Jackson 7,30 (F,F)
Scott Ashdown 20,39,40 (F,F,F)
READING 5 (3)
Simon Mantell 4,6,18,24,29 (F,F,F,F,F)
England Hockey Media release
Bowdon shake hoodoo to become Champs
Bowdon Hightown rid themselves of their National Indoor Hockey Championship hoodoo in style, overcoming thirteen time champions Slough 4 – 2 to win their first National Indoor title since 1995. With the title, Bowdon Hightown have also earned the right to represent England in the 2010 EuroHockey Nations Indoor Club Championships.
Goals from Michelle Liptrot, Sally Walton and two from Tina Cullen ensured victory and gained a measure of revenge for defeats to Slough at the same stage in each of the previous two seasons.
Coming into the Final as the underdogs, thanks to their previous final record against Slough, Bowdon Hightown showed no signs of being overawed, snatching the lead after just two minutes when Nicky O’Donnell played a smart one-two with Liptrot down the right wing, before finding Cullen at the far post, with the experienced forward rounding off a flowing move by firing beyond Lynette Smith in the Slough goal.
Despite picking up a string of penalty corners, Slough never seemed to enter top gear and instead it was Bowdon who struck, extending their lead to two, and then three nil before the break.
First Liptrot converted a penalty corner with a low shot from the top of the circle, and then Hightown captain Walton placed an unstoppable shot high, just inside the near post after Liptrot had taken the shorter option from a penalty corner.
Rather than coming out fighting after the interval, Slough again struggled to dominate the possession, while at the same time Bowdon Hightown seemed happy to let the game peter out in the middle, such was their advantage.
Slough did reduce the margin, as Nat Bell found Steffi Cordier in the middle of the circle, and with the goalkeeper out of position all Cordier had to do was find the gap between the defenders on the line to make the scores 3 – 1.
There was to be no fight back from Slough though, as a fourth and final Bowdon goal from Cullen loosened the Berkshire sides grip on the title irrevocably. Sam Quek played a ball off the boards down the left which found Cullen with her back to goal, and as the goalkeeper advanced on her, the former Great Britain international casually turned the ball beyond Smith and into the empty net.
With just a couple of minutes remaining, Ashleigh Ball’s tap in was rendered nothing more than a consolation, especially after Jane Smith had hit the left hand stanchion from a penalty stroke, moments before.
For Slough, their failure to convert any of their eight penalty corners proved costly, while for Bowdon Hightown it was third time lucky at Birmingham’s NIA, as Coach Roger Newcombe was keen to point out:
“It’s been three year’s in the making. You’ve just got to keep believing in the team and your players and just keep working at it. Thankfully it’s come good in the end, but it’s been a long, hard road, but well worth it.”
Commenting on double goalscorer Tina Cullen, Newcombe said: “She’s a hero, an absolute legend. I don’t know what we’d do without her!”
Bowdon Hightown captain and goalscorer Sally Walton was equally elated:
“This year we knew we had our strongest team and we’re just absolutely made up. It’s been a long time coming and we’re just over the moon.
Obviously we had the knowledge that we beat them in the rounds, so we knew Slough weren’t unbeatable.”
Meanwhile Slough coach Sue Chandler, was gracious in defeat, saying:
“I thought Bowdon Hightown played very well. In the Semi-Final we played and controlled for 40 minutes, and watching the other Semi-Final I though Hightown were a little bit off it today, but they certainly came out and played tonight. You can’t take anything away from them, they deserved it.
Today was their day, and they were worthy winners on the night.”
BOWDON HIGHTOWN 4 (3)
Tina Cullen 2,37 (F,F)
Michelle Liptrot 14 (PC)
Sally Walton 16 (PC)
SLOUGH 2 (0)
Steffi Corder 32 (F)
Ashleigh Ball 39 (F)
England Hockey Media release
Bowdon Hightown defeat Slough to win hockey's National Indoor Championship
By Charles Randall
Bowdon Hightown followed the announcement that they were to host a top-level European women's outdoor tournament at Easter by winning the National Indoor Championship in Birmingham on Sunday.
Bowdon defeated Slough 4-2 at the National Indoor Arena after losing the previous two finals to them. Tina Cullen scored twice to follow her two goals in the 4-3 semi-final win over the England Hockey League league champions Canterbury, watched by a 3,500 crowd.
The EuroHockey Cup Winners Cup, second in club value to the Champions Cup, comes to Cheshire on April 10-13 – the first time in 10 years an English venue has been chosen for any elite outdoor competition.
Bowdon, the Slazenger League runners-up last season, will be joined by Bonagrass Grove, from Scotland, and clubs from Germany, Spain, Italy, Holland, Ukraine and Belgium.
The men's 2008 indoor champions Loughborough Students had their Olympics defender Jon Bleby back in the squad and Tim Benford making his eighth consecutive finals appearance, but they lost 6-3 to East Grinstead, who beat Reading 8-5 in the final to qualify for Europe.
Students are preparing for the Champions Trophy in Prague on Feb 13-15, when they contest a group with Bra, from Italy, Partille, from Sweden, and Ukraine club Kolos-Sekoya Vinnitsa.
Bleby opted out of the first half of the outdoor season after Beijing and could return to Loughborough's Slazenger League relegation scramble when premier outdoor hockey resumes next weekend.
East Grinstead, inspired by Ashley Jackson, their Holland-based Olympian, ended two years of frustration of winning the league and failing at the championship. Reasing's five goals were all scored by Simon Mantell.
Punjab Gold Cup to be a regular feature
Chandigarh: Punjab Gold Cup hockey tournament, which will make its debut later this month, will be held on an annual basis at various places of the State, Organising Committee Chairman Sukhbir Singh Badal said here on Saturday.
Announcing this, Badal said the first-ever tournament being organised by the Punjab Sports Department in the astro turf stadium at Sector 32 here from Jan. 31 to February 9, has a total budget of Rs. 1.5 crore.
Apart from India, Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand will participate in this tournament.
Top teams to feature in Punjab Gold Cup hockey
CHANDIGARH: India will be up against three top international teams - Germany, Holland and New Zealand - in the first edition of the Punjab Gold Cup invitational hockey tournament at the floodlit Sector-42 hockey stadium from January 31.
Star attraction of the tournament will be Olympic champions Germany and European champions Holland. New Zealand is ranked 7th in the world while India is the lowest ranked, at 11th.
The 10-day tournament is being organised by the Punjab Sports department.
"This tournament is unique as it is being organised by a state government instead of the sports federation. The tournament will boost our national sport and create interest among youngsters," Punjab's Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the sports minister, said on Sunday.
Flanked by former Indian Hockey team captain and now Punjab's Director (Sports), Pargat Singh, Badal said the government wanted to bring more international sporting events to Punjab to attract youth to sports.
Badal said nearly 2,500 hockey players from across Punjab and school children from all districts will be brought to Chandigarh at the state government's expense to witness the matches.
The Times of India
Gold Cup Final is my Target: Harendra
Mumbai: Jan 25: One should look at the big picture while starting a campaign after a long gap and not dwell on minor setbacks. With a hectic season up ahead, the Indian hockey team started off on a great note, winning the first two games but lost steam in the four-test series against Argentina that ended four days back.
But stand-in coach Harendra Singh would only like to draw postiives from the 2-2 draw against the South American powerhouse. Even though admits that his boys should have won the series 3-1, Harendra is happy with the manner in which the seniors jelled with the team in their comeback matches
"I am satisfied with the way the team played, though we should have won the series," Harendra said. "There are some flaws that need to be ironed out. We were losing a log of balls in theo midfield...we will work on this aspect in the next few days. The Series helped me assess the team as we were playing internaitonal hockey after a long gap,: he said.
New fitness programme to arrest poor results
By JUGJET SINGH
THE National Under-21 team have always been 10 minutes away from notching good results, but coach K. Rajan feels he has the time to solve this problem before the Junior World Cup on June 7-21.
The Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF), and the series of friendly matches before and after the tournament, showed the Juniors can play good hockey for 60 minutes, but cave in in the final 10 minutes of their matches.
After the AYOF the Juniors played three friendlies losing 2-1 and 3-2 to the senior Western Australian Institute of Sports (WAIS) team while winning 1-0 against the WAIS juniors.
"In the AYOF we took the lead in all the matches, but drew or lost in the final 10 minutes," said Rajan.
"I see this as a minor problem and with the fitness programme arranged for after the Chinese New Year, I am confident the boys will be able to play good hockey for 70 minutes in the Junior World Cup."
"We will be based at Army camps in Sungai Besi and Lumut for one month where a fitness regime will take priority over everything else.
"After that, the boys should be ready to put up a better fight in the friendly matches arranged, as well as the planned Four-Nation at the tournament venue in Johor Baru," added Rajan.
The RM16 million stadium in Taman Daya, Johor Baru, is almost complete while work on a second pitch, floodlights and six more changing rooms are in progress.
Admission to all matches, including the semi-finals and final, is free.
New Straits Times
Tour Down Under exposes Juniors’ weaknesses
BY S. RAMAGURU
KUALA LUMPUR: Just one win from 11 outings in their three-week tour of Australia has given National Juniors coach K. Rajan a clearer idea of the team’s shortcomings.
The team returned home three days ago and, apart from more hard work, Rajan said they urgently needed a sports psychologist and a physical trainer if they hoped to do well in the Junior World Cup, which Malaysia and Singapore will co-host from June 7-21.
The Juniors played 11 matches in Sydney, including four in the four-nation meet of the Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF).
“Our players were only able to last for 60 minutes in a game and we conceded silly goals in the last 10 minutes. This is an area that needs urgent work and I’m confident we can overcome their weaknesses by June,” said Rajan yesterday.
He was, however, pleased to see that the team improved with each match in Sydney.
“For me that was the positive part of the tour. The players are getting used to what we want from them and executed their moves well,” said Rajan.
“Now we have specific areas to work on and this will allow us to focus on their weaknesses in training.”
Rajan also stressed the need for a sports psychologist to start work on the players immediately.
“We had a four-day session in Malacca recently and it helped the players greatly. I have requested for a sports psychologist. Hopefully, we will get one soon,” he said.
“We have experts from the National Sports Institute (NSI) helping us out and they have been a great help.”
The Juniors will undergo a month-long commando training in Lumut next month before competing in a four-nation meet in Johor Baru, the venue for the Junior World Cup, in March.
Rajan then hopes to take them for a tour of Europe in April.
He will keep all 26 players in the team until the European tour. Only 18 players will be selected for the Junior World Cup.
The Star of Malaysia
Lost match as well as height contest
By Jugjet Singh
THE National Under-16 team lost both their friendlies and height contest to the visiting under-17 Chandigarh hockey academy from Punjab, but the team showed some promise in their fighting display.
The juniors lost 6-1 and then 1-0, and will wrap-up the series today.
The Malaysian boys not only lost on the pitch, but also in height. The Punjab boys were all six-footers, while the Malaysian players hardly reached their shoulders.
“The first match went badly because the boys were overawed by their opponents physique, and also because boys from Bandar Penawar and Bukit Jalil Sports Schools were combined to play in a match for the first time.
“But in the second match, there was marked progress and they could have even won the match is not for the three bungled penalty corners,” said national under-16 coach K. Dharmaraj.
The boys are being groomed for the 2013 Junior World Cup, and Dharmaraj said he will increase the pool to make it more challenging.
“I will slowly increase the pool, so that there will be continuous challenging among the payers for positions in the team.
“This will make them realise that there is no guarantee, and they will have to constantly be at their best to be in the training pool.”
The current national senior team has a limited pool of players, and many have taken their spots for granted, as they know that even if their performance drops, there are no capable replacements to rip their national colours away.
Jugjet's World of Field Hockey
Captain Sandeep Singh, a perspective
Sandeep Singh, 23, has been made captain of the Indian team for the Argentina tour. The news that came on the eve of New Year, made good of headlines.
Sandeep’s elevation is the unanimous choice of the Selection Committee of the Ad-hoc Committee of the IHF. Sandeep is the first player in the modern era to become captain of the national team even before playing one hundred matches for India.
The Selection Committee, enjoying full freedom nowadays, consists of players of age 40 to 60, they are all famed and decorated former players.
We have therefore at the outset respect their decision. Expectedly, not much questions were also raised on their choice by any concerned, especially by the media for whom the issue of leadership is always dear.
Sandeep Singh has sometimes been a match winner, coaches who trained him, selected him, pin high hopes on his caliber, especially in the art of drag flicks. Sandeep has fairly delivered at the junior international outings before graduating to senior grade.
If one looks at his evolution as a decent player that he is nowadays, it is amply clear that his strength is penalty corner conversions, but that quality alone did not ensure him a place in the senior national team. He was expected to be a good defender also.
He was often found wanting as a decent defender in the beginning, being over-shadowed by the likes of Len Aiyappa, William Xalxo, Kanwalpreet Singh, VR Raghunath, Harpal Singh, to quote a few, besides unquestionably high-calibre Dilip Tirkey.
In the whole of 2004, 2005 and better part of 2006, the nation paid a heavy price -- and it was worth -- in trying out him as a midfielder before he got his slot for the senior side. His acumen in drag flicks are hardly debatable – though statistics prove he has to go miles before a worthy nightmare teams like strong Europeans, Australia and Argentina -- he is yet to get a clean chit from coaches in the question of defender.
Last year coach Bansal praised him as a defender when India reached the finals of the Azlan Shah Cup in years. Before that Joaquim Carvalho questioned his commitment, but one need not attach much importance to the Mumbai coach whose very commitment to the team’s cause is not beyond cloud.
Present coach Harendera, who polished Sandeep in 2003 and 2004 in junior circuit, spoke high of him, and we are waiting to hear his last words once the team returns from Argentina tour.
In the existing situation, it is fair to conclude Sandeep is young, emerging player, if groomed properly, will become a long term material.
This writer entails a degree of reservation in this respect. To groom a player, he needs to be totally loyal to the game, keep away personal prejudices and choices on men and matters, focus on learning and improving – and in the team winning, India or Air India.
Sandeep, all said and done, is extremely good against traditional Asian block (Malaysia, Pakistan) and Level II European teams, but found wanting against level 1 European, Pan American and Oceania teams. Anyone who keeps his goals-scored record against each nation will vouchsafe for this fact. His PC skills, potential and delivery-worth, are still a pale shadow of the best in the contemporary scene.
It is therefore what is important for him is, to devote his focus to his skills, which needs lot more polishing, focus etc.
A long spell under specialized coaches in European country like Netherlands is a must for him so that he evolves in the mould of Brahm Lomans or Sohail Abbas – and also to acquire variety in his weapon.
At this juncture of his life the Shahbad’s gem needs focus and concentration which are now at the danger of erosion due to the unexpected leadership responsibilities.
For an outsider, captaincy is hardly an issue in hockey sport, but for the team it is something that can make or mar their team spirit.
Ramandeep Singh’s case is in point. He was simply the best left-half since he took the spot of well-entrenched Shakeel Ahmed with a gold at the 1995 Azlan Shah Cup. How we lost such a promising talent in the short span of next five years, throws some lessons for us to learn.
About six players were senior to Ramandeep Singh in terms of caps and age, whatever way you look at, before on one moment of madness KPS Gill and his loyal Coach Baskaran catapulted him to Sydney Olympics leadership.
Ramandeep, highly sophisticated, cultured, educated, obedient, could not bear the burden. He buckled under pressure. Even Gill refused to take him for the team after Sydney – even refusing to heed to the repeated requests of then Union Minister Dhindsa. Because, Ramandeep -- who was a pillar of strength for the team till then -- faltered where he was supposed to be otherwise – at the Olympics. Most of the goals, including the Poland’s equalizer – scored through the area which he was supposed to safeguard.
But for Ramandeep Singh – however harsh the comment is – India would have played the semifinals against Pakistan at Sydney. Was it a fault of Ramandeep Singh? No, he did not ask for the leadership, it was thrust on him to deny the likes of Dhanraj Pillay, Dilip Tirkey, Md. Riaz, Baljit Dhillon etc etc.
Having a nice guy at the top is one thing, the same guy gaining the confidence of team mates is another. Leave this. Even performing to one’s known potential becomes difficult if your team mates does not extend fullest cooperation.
The situation is almost similar now, as that of Sydney.
There are half a dozen players in the Argentina and Punjab Gold Cup team who are by age or caps senior to him. I fear Sandeep will have it in himself to take everyone into confidence and be a real leader. And then give a decent performance.
I was really peeved when I happened to read one of his off the cuff remarks (India would have qualified had I been part of the team) in the wake of Chile Olympic Qualifier disaster.
A couple of days after becoming the captain, he openly commented on the issue of foreign coach. This was the time when the Ministry and Adhoc Committee were trying to do the opposite. It almost gave an impression that he rebuffed their efforts. Without going into the merit of his opposition to foreign coach, it can be fairly said Sandeep entered into an avoidable controversy, thereby bringing in whispers among the decision makers. Fairness and wisdom dictate that when the Adhoc Committee does not interfere in team selection and choice of captaincy, they also need their freedom. Why should one, then, interfere in what is clearly an administrative decision to avail the services of a competent foreign coach?
Sandeep Singh needed to be counseled properly and his energies channelized to perfect the god-gifted wrist and brain. He can do wonders as a player but lose the verve and vitality if dabbles in unnecessary and unfamiliar areas.
Whether India needs a foreign coach or not, Sandeep certainly needs one to realize his true potential. As now, he is worth only half his material.
We want a Sandeep Singh, a match winner. We want more goals, crucial goals from him, not just tossing the coin. It would hardly matter whether he is a player or captain. History will judge him only for his performance, not anything else.
Dhanraj was hailed for his 11 goals at the 1998 Asian Games, not for anything else.
More importantly, he should not fall into the falsehood of championing causes which are not of his domain. As a true leader, he should try to espouse the team’s day today needs and demands in polite and measured manners for which he is known for.
Of the four Selectors who named him the leader, except Ajit Pal all others (Aslam Sher Khan, Dhanraj Pillay, Ashok Kumar) are known today not for their captaincy but for their match winning abilities. Aslam, Pillay and Ashok never led their sides in World Cup or Olympics, but are highly valued stars because of their exploits.
We want a performing Sandeep Singh, want him to score one hundred goals in one season, not want him to perish under the weight of personal prejudices. Sandeep as of now is precariously placed.
As home-grown Diwakarram breathing down his neck, and Raghunath not getting his share of match experience, Innocent Kullu and William Xalxo pressing on, Sandeep has to go miles before he commands unquestionable position in the team -- that can happen only if he scores against level I teams.
We have faith in him, and he needs all round support. Let his stick talk, scoreboard reflect, media headlines won’t take him anywhere.
Season of hope
Burying the past and moving forward is easier said than done. Indian hockey has been trying in vain to get back on track ever since the men’s team failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics last year. However, a new season, a new coach-in-charge and a new captain offer hope that a new dawn might not be far away. Here’s why there is reason for optimism…
The selectors might have preferred juniors to seniors while picking the side for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup last year, but the 22-member squad for the recently-concluded Tests in Argentina, and the four-nation Gold Cup tournament at home, has a more judicious mix. While experienced players like Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh have been recalled, Sandeep Singh — on the sidelines subsequent to an accident-enforced sabbatical just a year ago — has been made the skipper. Add to the experience of the seasoned hands the fresh legs of Diwakar Ram, Vikas Pillay and Gurbaj Singh, and the squad packs depth and versatility in both attack and defence, at least on paper. With Prabhjot Singh, Tushar Khandekar, Shivendra Singh, Rajpal Singh and Deepak Thakur in the squad, the frontline appears threatening. The midfield lacks experience but for halfback Prabodh Tirkey, but Gurbaj has shown that he can assist Prabodh. Recalled midfielder Vikram Pillay brings flair while rookie Ajitesh Roy has potential. Dilip Tirkey, aided by Sandeep Singh and VR Raghunath, who can play in various positions, inspire confidence in the defence, and in Adrian D’Souza and Baljit Singh, Team India possess two able goalkeepers.
Coach-in-charge Harender Singh feels that the squad has the right ingredients to evolve into a quality side. “We have good strikers, playmakers, defenders and goalkeepers. We have the core to develop a strong side over the next few months. The coaching camps in Bangalore and Bhopal, which focussed on fitness and technique, were useful,” says Harender.
The selection committee has drawn flak for recalling Deepak Thakur and Vikram Pillay, who are back in the squad after nearly two years in the wilderness, but Harender insists that experienced players have a crucial role to play. “The talent of Deepak, Prabhjot and Dilip can’t be doubted; they showed good form and fitness at the training camps and it would have been unfair not to give these seniors a chance. Moreover, it’s not as if we don’t have youngsters in the team,” he says. Harender reasons that with the Junior World Cup coming up this year, it makes sense for the younger lot to concentrate on training under junior team coach AK Bansal. “Clubbing the juniors with the seniors and moving them back and forth will create adjustment problems. In any case, I get feedback from Bansal and, with the World Cup for seniors in 2010, we have enough time to bring in juniors who are ready to be inducted into the main team,” he explains.
It may be mentioned that the junior team has performed well in recent times. The colts stayed unbeaten in the four-Test series (three draws and a win) against hosts Argentina in December last year and beat the Netherlands in a one-off match. Earlier, in July, they defended the Junior Asia Cup title in Hyderabad and formed the core of the side that bagged silver at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. Coach Bansal is confident that the juniors will progress to at least the semifinals in the Junior World Cup in June 2009.
Flicker of hope:
India currently enjoys the cushion of three quality drag-flickers in Sandeep, Raghunath and Diwakar, who, though he missed the Argentina series due to the Australian Youth Olympic Festival being held at the same time, is a safe bet for the future. “Diwakar, along with Sandeep and Raghunath, makes our drag-flicking department potent. Diwakar is definitely in our scheme of things. We felt he should participate in the Australian event as he is the U-21 skipper and was in Argentina recently with the junior side,” says Harender. Sandeep, who scored nine goals to ensure that India returned with silver from the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup last year, has been in good form since his comeback. Diwakar has also been among the goals — he netted 11 in the Junior Asia Cup and scored a hat-trick in the first U-21 Test against Argentina in December 2008. “Raghunath too has been doing a good job. The selectors are spoilt for choice in the drag-flicking department — that’s a positive sign,” says Bansal.
With quite a few veterans in the side and his own leadership experience limited, Sandeep’s appointment as skipper would appear to be a bold decision. “Sandeep is one of our better players and the ideal choice as captain when you think of building a team for the future. We have kept in mind the World Cup and Commonwealth Games in 2010 and the 2012 Olympics. Sandeep is mentally tough and a natural leader. That he has recovered from a near-fatal injury and returned to the national side speaks volumes of his toughness. He will be given time to establish his credentials,” says Harender. Sandeep, whose tackling and interception impressed former technical advisor Ric Charlesworth, is ready for the challenge of leading the team. “As a drag-flicker, I have always strived to ensure that my team comes out on top. That mindset won’t change with me as captain. I am lucky have to have senior players like Deepak, Dilip, Prabodh and Prabhjot in the side. We have a good side and some important tournaments coming up at home. It’s time we buried the disappointment of not qualifying for the Olympics and focussed on the future,” he says.
Busy season ahead:
While India competed in only a handful of events last year (the Belgium Tests, Olympic qualifier in Santiago, Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, twin-series in Australia), efforts are on to organise more tournaments for the team in 2009. Though the proposed away-home Test series against Pakistan is doubtful, Chandigarh will host the Golden Cup featuring New Zealand, Germany and the Netherlands. And with the World Cup to be held in New Delhi next year, many teams are likely to tour India to familiarise themselves with the conditions. Harender has stressed on the importance of playing international matches in his report to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). “Our goal is to reach the Commonwealth Games final and the World Cup semifinals. To be able to match the top sides, we need to play more international matches. I have sent a proposal to the IOA seeking more tournaments,” he informs.
Meanwhile, the ad-hoc committee running the sport in the country ever since the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) was disbanded reportedly proposes to hike the players’ match fees and improve training facilities. Sources reveal that while two corporate houses are keen to pump money into Indian hockey, they seek assurance that the money will reach the players.
The ad-hoc committee also claims to have initiated the process of appointing a foreign coach. Though committee members are reluctant to disclose the names in the fray, the process is expected to be complete in two months’ time. “But that doesn’t mean current coach-in-charge Harender will leave once a foreign coach is appointed. He will assist the head coach and be consulted on all major decisions,” says a committee member.
Indian hockey has its problems of course. While former IHF president KPS Gill is trying to stage a comeback, the hearing of his petition with regard to the legitimacy of the IOA’s authority to suspend him and the IHF has been postponed to February. While this effectively means that the existing ad hoc committee will continue to run the sport, there is talk of members of this committee being divided on various issues. Randhir Singh’s resignation from the ad hoc committee points to this dissent.
Nonetheless, there are positive signs. Leanrdo Negre, the new president of the Federation of International Hockey (FIH), has confirmed that India will host the World Cup in 2010 despite the recent terror strikes in Mumbai. Negre will also resume the Special India Project though its director Bob Davidzon has stepped down. “The outgoing FIH president had caused much damage by meddling in our affairs. I hope the new dispensation devotes to Indian hockey the patience and care needed for its revival,” says former player Gurbux Singh Sandhu.
The most important development is that, after a period when the administrators were in the spotlight, the focus is back on the players. Now, it is up to them to lift themselves and put India back on the winning track.
New Indian Express
Father dies, Junior Star Birendra not aware of it
A stick2hockey.com effort
So much of sacrifice goes into the making of a hockey player – stick2hockey.com has the very recent one – that not many of us are even aware of it.
Junior India’s striker Birendra Lakra ‘s father dies in Orissa, but he was not told of the demise till he returned to India five days later.
Ignace Lakra, 50, died of asthma related illness on 12th January at Rourkela. This information was not provided to Birendra who was then playing for India in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney, Australia.
“He normally calls me once or twice from the tours. He did not call this time. Even had he called we would not have informed him of this death. Because, he will be upset, his game will also be affected. After all he was playing for the country. Had it been a nearby country, at least he could have come for the cremation, from Sydney it is near impossible, what is use then in letting him know of this,” said his coach Raju Kant Saini.
“In any case he is not going to reverse the tragedy”
Birendra Lakra is a trainee of Rourkela based SAIL Hockey Academy of which Raju is the coach.
Birendra Lakra shot into the limelight when he scored all the four goals that his SAIL Academy scored in the final of the last year Junior National Championship. His graduation to national camp and then for Junior India is only a natural corollary.
The coach did not even want to inform Birendra of this news when the team landed in Delhi, but it seemed he got the news through other friends.
“I wanted to avoid him the trauma of traveling long distance with sadness. But when I received him at the Railways Station he told he knew it’, Raju elaborated.
His father was cremated the same day of his death. Ironically enough, the late Lakra was working in Rourkela Steel Plant hospital.
In the recent past, we had such a sad episode. Tushar Khandkar’s father died when he was playing in the 2005 Junior World Cup. Despite the tragedy, the great heart decided not to return.
Does the Indian public know of these specs of sacrifice from hockey players who are in their teens?
Birender is just 17 years and 10 month old, and is youngest of the five siblings of late Ignace Lakra.
Put your condolence message, we will ensure Birendra gets them all -- to show we are with him in this hour of grief.
Stick2Hockey.com - Click here to leave your message of condolence
Balbir Singh honoured with Padamshree
Government of India has conferred former Punjab Police's Balbir Singh with the prestigious Padamshree award.
Balbir Singh, born in Sansarpur near Jalandhar, is settled in Jalandhar after retiring from Punjab Police in 2001.
Balbir, a forward, won gold at the 1964 Olympics and 1966 Asian Games, besides bronze at the 1968 Mexico Olympics
Balbir made his debut in 1963 in the Lyon International tournament, which India won.
Balbir also played Senior Nationals for about two decades.
He has been a forward, positioning at wings or at centre, showing his versatality.
"Am happy I got Government of India's top civilian award", said Balbir, who retired as Deputy Inspector General of Police.
Changes in city schools hockey league
By NATION Correspondent
The format for this year’s Nairobi Secondary Schools Sports Association girl’s hockey league has been changed.
James Akweri, the co-ordinator said the league will be played in two stages.
Eight teams will play a round robin league before proceeding to the second classification stage.
The top two teams after the round robin league will play in the final to select the team to represent Nairobi in the national competition be held in Eastern Province in April.
The winners and runners-up at the national games represent the country at the regional East Africa School games in Kampala, Uganda in August.
According to the new format, all the teams will play at a central venue - Jamhuri High School - over three weekends from February 7.
All the participating teams will be meeting at a central location on weekends. Pangani Girls are the national girl’s hockey champions.
Teams: Hillcrest Secondary, Pangani, Moi Nairobi Girls, St. George’s, State House Girls, Precious Blood, Kenya High, Kianda and Buru Buru Girls. Fixtures: February 7: Pangani v Kenya High, Hillcrest Secondary v State House Girls (9 am), St. George’s v Kianda, Moi Nairobi Girls v Precious Blood (10 am), State House Girls v Kenya High, Buru Buru v Pangani (11 am), Kianda High v Hillcrest Secondary, St. George’s v Moi Nairobi Girls (12 pm), State House Girls v Buru Buru, Kenya High v Precious Blood (1 pm), Hillcrest Secondary v St. George’s, Kianda v Moi Nairobi Girls (2 pm), Pangani v State House Girls, Precious Blood v Buru Buru (3 pm), Pangani v Precious Blood, St. George’s v Kenya High (4 pm). February 21: State House Girls v Precious Blood, Kianda v Pangani (9 am), Buru Buru v Hillcrest Secondary (10 am), Kenya High v Kianda, Moi Nairobi Girls v Buru Buru (11 am), Pangani v St. George’s, Hillcrest Secondary v Precious Blood (12 pm), St. George’s v State House Girls, Kianda v Buru Buru (1 pm), Kenya High v Hillcrest Secondary, Precious Blood v Kianda (2 pm), Moi Nairobi Girls v Pangani, Buru Buru v St. George’s (3 pm). March 14: Hillcrest Secondary v Moi Nairobi Girls, Buru Buru v Kenya High (9 am), St. George’s v Precious Blood, State House Girls v Kianda (10 am), Pangani v Hillcrest Secondary, Moi Nairobi Girls v Kenya High (11 am).