CHENNAI: There were two moments from Gold Coast which epitomised the men's hockey team's performances. Both came against New Zealand in the semifinals. The first was a careless pass by Amit Rohidas. He had enough time to survey the real estate in front.
He also had the option of going aerial but he eschewed all those. Instead, he opted to pass it to Manpreet Singh, who was on top of the striking circle in the Indian half. He could not trap properly and the ball fell invitingly to Stephen Jenness, who had started to press the skipper as soon as the pass was played. The ball fell kindly for him and he scored for a 2-0 lead.
The next episode was when Akashdeep Singh, hockey's answer to Emile Heskey, a forward who doesn't score many goals, missed a chance when it was harder to miss. The incidents provoked a strong response from the Indian dugout. A few of the non-playing staff banged their fists on the table. On the field, the Men In Blue weren't improving. Sure, their build-up and passing was pretty good. But the players failed to be clinical at both ends — 10 words that ultimately proved to be the death knell for Sjoerd Marijne.The stats, and not just for the semifinal, bear this out. In six matches at CWG, India's field goal conversion percentage stood at roughly 10% (see table). Penalty corner conversion was better (25.6%) but they lagged behind the leaders in both these metrics. What was more tragic was they did well from an attacking perspective — their circle penetration numbers indicate they equipped themselves well.
It's just that the forwards, who scored five of India's 15, did not find the sweet spot often enough. A cardinal sin for a team that consistently spent time inside the opposition striking circle.It's a point high performance David John elucidated. In reality, the problem was... in the five-six years that I have been here... execution in the circle, he said when talking about the dubious record of sacking 24 coaches in as many years. We spent more time in the circle in this tournament than anyone else but in terms of shots at goal, other teams converted 26%.
We converted 10%. He is of the opinion that if India had matched the average (26%), Marijne would have brought back gold. That was the difference in the end. If we had converted 26%, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Our strikers weren't efficient enough in the circle. It's also why the team finished fifth at Azlan Shah.
In all but one match, their circle penetration figures were superior but they couldn't finish at crucial junctures.Meanwhile, a core group of 48 players has been identified and will be announced by the end of the week. Players not in the original list of 55 announced last week could figure in the scheme of things. That means the likes of Harjeet Singh, captain of the junior team Harendra Singh coached to World Cup triumph, may return.