India's appearance in their maiden Champions Trophy final has brought into focus the team that almost fell off the world map after decades of international domination.
India’s appearance in their maiden Champions Trophy final has brought into focus the team that almost fell off the world map after decades of international domination.
Winning a medal ahead of the Olympic Games was the agenda set for the Indian team heading for London, where four years ago they had finished at the bottom of the 12-team Olympic competition.
Returning to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the Indian team is viewed by hockey observers as an attractive side in the manner they are playing.
Ex-England captain and international coach Gavin Featherstone finds India the most interesting outfit in the Champions Trophy.
“Indian hockey seems in transition between the free-flowing Indian style and the strict Dutch style,” says Featherstone, who turned to coaching after his playing days and went to two Olympic Games as coach of different international teams, beside several junior and senior World Cups.
In Featherstone’s opinion, India have some issues about their priorities on the field, and it has to do with the dilemma about what style to play.
“I see a lot of Holland in the way India are trying to play,” said Featherstone. “It could be influence of the Dutch coaches, but there’s evidently a bit of dilemma in mixing the two styles.”
“It is because of this dilemma that India are the most interesting team,” he said.
“Going forward, this should also give India more options. What’s been very impressive is that the boys on the field have not been pushed around by rivals. That is a new feature in this side compared to some earlier Indian sides.”
Featherstone said it went to the credit of the Indian team that they have made the Champions Trophy final without Sardar Singh, their regular captain and standout player.
“One and a half year ago, I saw Sardar as the domineering figure, but the team here has got used to playing without him. It will be interesting to see how the Indians play when he returns to the team for the Olympic Games,” Featerstone said.
“It is in the nature of the Indian players to give the ball back to the standout players. There’s a hierarchy at play in some countries,” he said.
Observing the Indian team leaving huge gaps in their defence when the rivals mount counter-attacks, Featherstone said this is where the Indians suffered setbacks.
“When the Indians go forward, they really go forward. But there seems trouble when they lose the ball when going out into the attack,” Featherstone said.
“It’s the reaction of a side when they lose the ball that has a big bearing on handling that situation. In the transition from having the ball and losing it, there always seem to be some culprits in this Indian team.”
Featherstone felt that the Indian team was not playing at the same pace throughout any match.
“One thing I’ve noticed is that in every match the Indian team needed one quarter of rest. That’s when they pull back and seek to hold on,” he said.
“It seems as if they can play three quarters and then the pace dips. This could be a mental or a physical thing, because they have then come back and shown that they can match the pace in the next quarter,” he said.
Featherstone asserts that the Indians have the ability to resolve some of these issues by improving their fitness and maintaining structure during play.
“India are always an interesting team, with or without the dilemmas confronting them,” he said.