Indian hockey team needs a defender like Dilip Tirkey: Harendra

Monday, November 29, 2010

NEW DELHI - The Indian hockey team is still in search of a sound defender of the calibre of Dilip Tirkey. His retirement has left a big vacuum and that was one of the reasons for India failing to grab the gold at the Guangzhou Asian Games last week. That is the assessment of national coach Harendra Singh on his return home.

The Indian team lost their semifinal match to Malaysia as they were not able to consolidate the position after forging ahead twice, the second time hardly three minutes from the final hooter. This was clearly the result of a defensive lapse. They first allowed the Malaysians to force penalty corners and then failed to stop them from converting.

Harendra, who had put in his papers after the semifinal defeat, said India deserved to win the gold and the bronze is not a “just reward” for the players who have worked hard in the last two years to raise their level of hockey.

“Somebody had to put his hand up and take responsibility for the loss and I decided to do that,” Harendra told IANS Monday.

“If there was any team which deserved to win gold, it was India. I am not happy with the result. After all a bronze is a poor consolation.”

“I am disappointed with the standard of the hockey at Guangzhou. It has gone down for sure. Two teams which maintained a certain standard was India and Japan. But at the end of the day it is destiny.”

India won all their group matches, and even beat eventual champions Pakistan, but the defence was a weak link and it proved costly against Malaysia.

“Let’s face it. We do not have a defender like Dilip Tirkey, He was like a wall in defence and when a wall falls, it takes time to rebuild. He has left a big vacuum and we need to find a replacement fast.”

“Yes, of course, we have a world class defender like Sardar Singh who was exceptional at the Asian Games. The others are not up to it and they need to pull up their socks. We have improved in some aspects of defending like man-to-man marking.”

Asked about India losing a chance to get a berth for the 2012 London Olympics, now forcing them to go through the qualification, Harendra said he is confident that the

eight-time champions will make the cut and not miss the bus like they did it the last time in Beijing.

“I have no doubt that we will qualify for the London Olympics. The Olympic qualification will happen in India in Feb 2012 and the home condition will be a big factor. Also all the major teams have made the cut, so it should not be a worry for us.”

Harendra,however, cautioned that the good work done by the government in giving the team exposure and arranging tournaments at home should continue.

“At this stage, there should not be any curtailment in the facilities provided. In fact, it should improve. Make no mistake that the team has definitely improved and it is only because of the exposure trips, and events such as World Cup and Commonwealth Games organised at home that the team could make the final in New Delhi Games and the semis at the Asian Games.”

“Also, there should be a systematic and structured coaching at the grassroot level. The system needs to be revamped to churn out players for the national team. Emphasis should be on modern hockey and the coaches need to be trained for that. There should be fitness experts, sports psychologist etc with every team so that when a player is selected for the national team, he is ready.”

“We need to restart the national championship and other domestic tournaments to find fresh talent. We also need to have a proper pipeline for regular supply of players for the national team.”

Filed under: Hockey, Olympic Games

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