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Average Junior Hockey World Cup outing for India – colts need stable coaching structure and more exposure | Hockey News – Times of India

BHUBANESWAR: When India kept a clean sheet to beat Belgium 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup, Graham Reid’s clear fingerprints on the defensive structure were the hallmark of that showing. Parachuting in the senior-team coach to mentor the juniors for the event appeared to be a masterstroke. But as expectations of the defending champions owning the tournament from thereon began to multiply, a myriad of mistakes snowballed into a frustrating eventual final result, which saw the defending champions finish fourth, after yet another shock loss to France.
This in no way means that the coach is to be blamed, especially someone like Reid, who was almost air-dropped for a rescue mission. On the contrary, the manner of India’s defeats against Germany in the semifinal (2-4) and on Sunday against France (1-3) in the bronze-medal playoff force us to ask a pointed question: What was the state of the players in terms of learnings and standards before Hockey India asked Reid to take the coach’s seat for the tournament?
It may remain an unanswered question, but repeating the same mistakes for three consecutive games have now raised serious doubts over the transition that will happen after the 2024 Olympics.
But what was heartening to see is that the raw talent exists.

PIC Credit: @TheHockeyIndia Twitter handle

An Uttam Singh may completely prove doubters wrong over the next two years, an Araijeet Singh Hundal may become the next-gen hero, a Sharda Nand Tiwari may make us eat our words. It can happen and the talent of this lot can’t be doubted, but when the same mistakes are repeated, the ability to process information and situations has to be questioned. That’s what separates good players from great players.
The two matches against France, thus, become classic examples.
The bronze-medal playoff was India’s rematch against the French team. Both were in the same pool, where France stunned the hosts with a 5-4 win in their tournament opener. India were expected to have learnt from that before taking the pitch on Sunday. To the team’s credit, they must have analysed videos and done their homework. But once on the pitch, it seemed like the players caught examination fever.

PIC Credit: @TheHockeyIndia Twitter handle

The indecisive nature of India’s play, which Reid pointed at while talking to the media after the quarterfinal as well as the semis, didn’t leave the system, and it hurt.
France earned 14 penalty corners, exposing India’s defence. Skipper Timothee Clement scored another hat-trick, like in the earlier game against the Indians, which means penalty-corner defence was still clueless about his drag-flicks.
The hosts looked to be clawing back when Sudeep Chirmako cut France’s lead to 2-1 in the third quarter, but Clement’s third goal five minutes later brought back the cushion the French needed to close the game at 3-1 and win bronze.

PIC Credit: @TheHockeyIndia Twitter handle

Jude Felix, a former India international and ex-coach of India juniors seemed to throw his weight behind Reid on a TV show recently, but he also advocated against chopping and changing the coaching structure at the doorstep of an important tournament.
Felix was at the helm of affairs in India’s junior men’s set-up as coach, before being removed in June 2019. After that BJ Kariappa had remained in charge, until being asked to take the back seat for the Junior World Cup to Graham Reid, the senior men’s coach.
Nobody denies the fact that these players hadn’t played for two years as part of the junior team and were not in sync or fully used to each other’s playing styles — unlike the 2016 champions that had played the Hockey India League (HIL) and were with coach Harendra Singh for three years before playing the Junior World Cup.

PIC Credit: @TheHockeyIndia Twitter handle

In fact, that comparison is the biggest takeaway of the tournament.
Whether the HIL returns or not is a separate story, but the effect it had on improving the quality of the 2016 Junior World Cup winners can’t be overlooked or forgotten.
On those lines, this batch needs a stable coaching structure to get used to, and matches on the roster for more exposure.
The talent is clearly there, but it needs to be harnessed better.

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