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India's decline in hockey started over 30 years ago

Roar Pro
19th June, 2016
3

Last time India won a major hockey tournament was the 1975 World Cup, in Kuala Lumpur, under the captainship of Ajit Pal Singh.

India did win Moscow Olympics gold in 1980, however it the games were boycotted by hockey powerhouses West Germany, Australia, Pakistan and the Netherlands.

India hosted the World Cup tournament in 1981-82. In perhaps the last World Cup played on grass, fiery finisher Hassan Sardar led Pakistan to a 5-3 victory over West Germany in the finals.

Pakistan continued its good form, whereas India’s started declining. The difference between the traditional rivals was the finishing inside the D, from where you are allowed to score goals. Pakistani forwards Sardar and later Shahbaz Ahmed would create havoc inside the opponents’ D, while India’s fast forwards fumbled way too often.

Another weak link was India’s inability to convert penalty corners into goals.

Talented Pakistani PC expert Shoail Abbas, though not as fast as Europeans, was an outstanding drag-and-flick specialist. He would hold his nerve inside the D and wait for that split second to drag and flick into the goal.

As hockey shifted to synthetic turf, so too did the advantage to the Europeans and the Australians, although Pakistan continued their good form. Led by the indomitable Sardar, they won hockey gold in 1984, where all major powers participated.

Pakistan, with players like Shahbaz Ahmed, Wasim Feroze and Shohail Abbas, continued to give the Europeans and Australians a run for money. They went to the finals of World Cup in 1989-90 and won a bronze at the ’92 Olympics in Barcelona.

But in spite of having world-class players, India continued to decline.

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This is where Indian Hockey Federation failed spectacularly. Known for its inefficiency, it failed to resuscitate Indian hockey.