New Delhi: Blaming India’s back-to-back defeats against Australia and Spain in the hockey World Cup on flawed selection process, former Olympians on Friday demanded ouster of non-performers from the team and a complete overhaul of the system.
India began their ongoing World Cup campaign on a positive note, outclassing Pakistan 4-1 but wore a sorry look against Australia and Spain, who thrashed them with identical 5-2 scoreline in their next two outings.
The defeats have virtually dashed India’s semifinal hopes and former Olympians are not even hopeful of a top-six finish.
A member of India’s 1975 World Cup winning side, Aslam Sher Khan feels the selection committee must own the responsibility of the team’s shoddy performance in the last two encounters.
“After the win against Pakistan, everybody had hopes from the team. Everybody felt that the boys have developed fighting spirit but it was not. The team is the same as it was before. We should not keep high hopes from it,” Aslam told reporters.
“If we have to revive Indian hockey. We have to set up an institution for the game as it was before. There is no set up for hockey in the country and we hardly have any knowledge from where these players have come,” he said.
He was also very critical of veteran striker Deepak Thakur’s performance.
“I don’t know why Deepak is in the World Cup squad. He is not fully fit and always keeps on hiding behind other players, fearing he may get hit,” Aslam said.
Aslam’s views were backed by his former team-mate of the 1975 triumphant side Ashok Kumar, who said the present defence of the national team was the weakest ever he has seen in the history of Indian hockey.
“It is very difficult to predict the performance of this side. I haven’t seen such a weak Indian defence in my entire life. It is very sad to see our defenders leaving rival players free inside the circle. Our defenders can’t go up and down like other teams,” he said.
“I also question the selection of Deepak Thakur in the side. He is not fully fit and looks terribly out of touch. The selection committee should take up the accountability for his selection,” said Ashok, son of hockey great Dhyan Chand.
“In his place we could have selected a junior player who could have made the difference. Even what is Prabhjot (Singh) doing, he is not injured,” the former selection committee member said.
Ashok also lashed out at Sandeep Singh and said the defender does not deserve a place in the team.
“Sandeep is a always a very weak defender. He committed plenty of errors yesterday. Yesterday, was the moment for him to rise to the occasion but he could only convert one out of the six penalty corners,” he said.
Both Ashok and Aslam feel India would struggle to finish even in the top six.
“India are three-four level below top teams like Australia, Spain who played well in totality. I would be more than happy if they finish seventh or eighth,” Aslam said.
“India would finish in between ninth and 12th position,” Ashok added.