Play Indian-style attacking hockey: Vasudevan Baskaran
Kolkata: Vasudevan Baskaran, who led India to its last Olympic hockey gold 32 years ago, feels the team needs to adopt the aggressive "Indian style of play" for a podium finish at the the London Games.
"Indian hockey has traditionally been characterised by individual flair, brilliant stick work and attacking mode of play. Instead of trying to borrow others` style we must focus on playing to our strength which is attacking from the onset till the last minute of the game," Baskaran told IANS in an interview.
Though wishing for a medal for the team, the 61-year-old Baskaran said a top five finish for the Indian team at the Games will be an honorable performance.
"The team has some very good players, is experienced, so I am sure they will perform well. Winning a medal surely will be a dream come true. But a top five finish for our team currently ranked at 10 will also be honorable," said Baskaran who captained his side to a gold at the Moscow Games in 1980, ending a 16 year drought.
The Indians led by goalie Bharat Chhetri and coached by Michael Nobbs, have qualified for the London Games 2012 after a gap of 8 years trouncing France 8-1 in the finals of the qualifiers.
India begin their campaign against the Netherlands July 30, followed by matches against New Zealand August 1, Germany August 3, Korea August 5 and Belgium August 7.
Baskaran, who coached the national team several times, the last occasion being at the 2006 Men`s Hockey World Cup in Monchengladbach, singled out medio Sardara Singh and ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh as the two players to watch out for.
"I am banking on both the Singhs and hoping for a superlative performance from them. The success of a team largely depends on the mid fielders and I am glad that we have Sardara orchestrating the game from the midfield."
"With Sandeep, we have a peculiar problem. He is a defender and a penalty corner specialist. We cannot afford him to be too much engrossed in defending while if he doesn`t, the defence becomes weak," said Baskaran.
Though refusing to comment on the team selection, Baskaran said there were "four-five exciting talent" who played at the World Series Hockey (WSH) and could have made it to the senior team.
"I do not want to comment, now that the team has been selected and already in London. But there are at least four-five exciting players who played in the WSH and by their sheer talent merited a place in the senior team."
He also lambasted the simultaneous presence of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and the Hockey India (HI), which is the official custodian of the game in the country.
"I cannot understand how the government can allow two associations to function simultaneously, that too at their will. The existence of both the bodies is hurting the prospect of the game in the country. It is high time the differences are sorted out and we have only one body governing the game," he said.
Reminiscing, the 1980 gold winning performance where India overcame a spirited Spanish challenge piping them to the post 4-3, Baskaran said his efforts to save two goals in the second half was most satisfying and he still cherishes those moments.
"Seeing the tri-colour go up as the national anthem played in the background made us all swell in pride. The fact that I contributed in saving two second half goals helping the side to maintain the lead makes it that much more memorable for me," he said.
He lamented the lack of popularity of the game and called for the return of hockey in school and colleges for the revival of the national sport of the country.
"For the revival of hockey it is essential that the game is played at school and college level because it is there where you find potential talent and nurture them to make match winners for the senior team.
The WSH is also playing a big role in nurturing new talent and I hope we have more tournaments like it where players from around the world compete, giving Indian players much needed exposure," said Baskaran.