India must retain Brasa

by Dr Shankar Kumar Chatterjee
“India suffer shock defeat at the hands of Malaysia”
“Coach Harendra Singh resigns in the wake of Hockey debacle”
“Coach Brasa hits out at the umpires and the FIH for bad decisions”

The hockey fan needs to glean the truth behind the headlines for himself by actually watching the hockey matches. Did the Indian team really goof up things thereby losing out to minnows Malaysia in the semifinal? Malaysia has a fairly long tradition of playing hockey, having played their first tournament in the 1958 Asiad at Tokyo. In the 1975 World Cup it was the same Malaysia, who led India 2-1 till the dying minutes of the semifinal when Aslam Sher Khan, coming in from the benches converted a penalty corner and equalised and a nation of seventy crores heaved a sigh of relief. Before that, in the words of the Indian skipper Ashok Kumar, “the Indian team was falling apart”. Harcharan Singh scored in the extra time to put India in the finals. Subsequently we went on to win the final 2-1 against Pakistan, which was the only World Cup win we ever scripted.
Coming down to the present, to regard Malaysia as a pushover is to expose one’s own ignorance about the present hockey scenario. It is coached by Dutchman Stephen Van Huizen who is a master tactician employing every tool in modern hockey including video analysis, unique variations in penalty corner batteries and specific tactics to neutralize opponent attackers and drag flickers.

It is indeed unfortunate that on a given day the Indian strategy failed to click and the defensive strategy employed by the Malaysians worked. However, it took an umpiring gaffe for Malaysia to get the penalty corner, which they converted thereby getting the golden goal. Coach Brasa’s gripe at the umpiring and the FIH’s decision not to employ video referral system that worked so well during the hockey world cup 2010 at Delhi is quite understandable. To depict it as a case of sour grapes is not fair. Coach Harendra Singh, obviously distressed at India’s loss in the semifinals broke down and put in his papers. But was it a debacle as projected?
Having watched the bronze medal play-off between India and South Korea, one could not have missed observing that the Indian strategy for the match was way ahead that of South Korea’s which is ranked above India in the FIH rankings. In fact, India played a perfectly modern game in the second half concentrating on ball possession and denying the Koreans the opportunity to even get to the ball. Sardara Singh’s defending and immaculate short passes even in deep defence were a treat to watch as India literally dictated terms giving no quarter to the Koreans.
It was not a debacle by any stretch of imagination. Agreed, we haven’t won the gold medal, which would have given us a direct berth in the Olympics. But Coach Brasa has succeeded in doing what he was supposed to do. He has taken the Indian national side several strides forward through a higher doctrine of modern hockey, which none of his predecessors could do. He has given a level of consistency to India’s performance, as shown by the four consecutive wins against Pakistan. It’s no flash in the pan. Hats off to Rajpal and his boys for imbibing what coach Brasa had to offer. My argument has been borne out than none other than Sardara Singh, easily the pillar of strength of the present Indian squad immediately following the recently concluded Guangzhou Asiad.
Unfortunately, what the mind does not know, the eyes cannot see. Ignoring the fact that hockey is no longer India’s monopoly, that is it a different ball game altogether today, that our boys are struggling against a better trained better equipped plethora of teams is being overly simplistic.
It is only a matter of time the army of parasites thriving on our Government run institutions like the Hockey India and the Sports Authority of India including some of our former Olympians starts baying for Brasa’s blood.
Unless the Government-run inefficient system is buried six feet beneath the ground and the army of non-performing parasites feeding on the taxpayer’s money banished into the wilderness there is no hope for Indian Hockey in the long run. It’s these faceless bureaucrats and the government nominated former Olympians whose heads should roll and not that of Jose Brasa.
We can however, keep on hiring and firing coaches of the caliber of Brasa as a quick means of committing suicide.