London: What`s happening to India`s team combination! It was not on view in the match against New Zealand. The display was not something to boast about.
India did secure an early lead through the second minute penalty corner conversion, but what happened thereafter was a big surprise. These boys have been training together for a long time, and still there was nothing like a combination on display.
This was supposed to be a must-win situation for India considering the defeat the team had suffered in the opening game against Netherlands. New Zealand were in a similar situation, but look at the difference in the manner the two teams played this match.
India did not seem to be on the pitch long enough as a combination with a purpose of scoring goals. Every second pass went astray and mostly the balls were hit forward aimlessly.
The shots often went straight to New Zealand`s defenders, who faced no problems in clearing them with no Indian forward posing any problem.
Every hockey player knows, even the most harmless looking shot can prove to be troublesome when hit with a purpose and if there are strikers putting pressure on the defenders. That was not the case here.
Despite an early lead nothing seemed to work for this Indian team. There were some fouls inside our striking circle that gave away soft penalty corners and the rival strikers were allowed plenty of space to move in the scoring area, but then that was just part of the problem confronting this side.
The aimless passing upfront was equally responsible in India`s bad performance. To me, the Indians today did not look like a combined outfit trying to score goals.
The forwards were running forward without purpose and hitting the ball aimlessly. Only some individual play was visible, but then how would the individual player run past a wall of defenders!
Sandeep Singh`s first penalty corner shot of these Olympics produced a goal that gave India the early lead, but that was wasted by some indifferent play thereafter.
New Zealand`s equaliser came from the penalty corner that India conceded as a defender, trying to get back into position, carried the ball that had been stopped by his teammate.
Once Andrew Hayward was given the space to execute his drag-flick, it could only be stopped by the goalkeeper. That is not easy and the shot went far to his left.
Ignace Tirkey cannot be faulted for conceding the penalty stroke that gave New Zealand their second goal. He was trying to make a goal-line save on a penalty corner, and the ball went from the stick to his body.
Experienced player Phillips Burrow was not to be denied on the penalty stroke, but the third goal was the result of panic in the Indian defence that presented the ball to New Zealand forward Shea McAleese.
Once McAleese had control of the ball and the Indian defence was is disarray, it was for the New Zealanders to make an error, but McAleese`s pass was accurate and Nicholas Wilson applied the finishing touch.
A very resolute effort was required from the Indian players to come back from this situation, but that was not to be.
The desired result of any attack is to score goals. That`s what the game is all about, but it did not seem to be the purpose by the way the Indian forwards went about their task.
(Pargat Singh represented India in three Olympic Games between 1988 and 1996. He is the only man to captain India in two Olympics - at Barcelona `92 and Atlanta `96)