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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

For Indian hockey, a dream comes to an end

Indian hockey fans didn’t have to wait for the morning after to realise that they had been living a dream.

Indian Hockey

It had dawned on many in the run-up to the Olympics itself, when the team set out to check the world; for the rest, it became clear in the opening round of the Games. Against The Netherlands, a force in transition, India flattered to deceive.In the first half, they were clearly overawed; in the second, they were clueless. Yes, they did brilliantly to recover from a two-goal deficit; but just when the pressure was shifting, when they were falling into a rhythm, they conceded a third. It was their point of no return.In the next match, they might as well have been invisible; New Zealand used their speed, strength and power to cast a spell on them. Yes, India surged into the lead in the first minute itself; but that was about as long that their joy lasted.In the next 18, they broke down thrice to yield a 1-3 lead; they just couldn’t find the resolve, the ideas or the moves to launch a fight-back, let alone a comeback. There was a hint of life in the second half but that proved to be a false alarm.If India were living on hope till then, they needed a miracle now. They were up against Germany, the defending champs. India needed a victory, or at least a draw, to somehow stay in the hunt for a medal.They began viciously, attacking from all the flanks; but a defensive lapse in the seventh minute, and a tennis-like shot from Florian Fuchs, saw them fall behind. R Raghunath equalised in the 14th, off a penalty corner. That is where the game ended. The Germans laid siege on the Indian half, relying on a mixture of long, powerful passes and sharp, incisive moves in the D to slam in goals. They were fast, aggressive and almost unstoppable; the defence just didn’t know whom to watch and whom to thwart.As if that was not enough, India couldn’t find the space to move ahead either; they were marked like shadows, making it almost impossible to shake them off, forget get past them. The final scoreline, 2-5, was a true reflection of the difference between the two teams.India clearly have been left behind in this race; yes, they did well to be back in the Olympic field. But they still have a long way to go before they can compete as equals at the world level. Until then, hockey fans can only dream of a new dawn.

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