JAKARTA: Towards the end of the men’s Pool A match between India and Hong Kong, the latter got a penalty corner. It took them a few moments to realise that they'd got one. Some weren’t even sure about what a penalty corner constituted. Others were half expecting the electronic display to add one more goal to India’s tally, for 24-0 to become 25-0. Just as the players in red understood what was going on, the Indian defence appealed the decision and got it overturned.
Twenty-four versus zero, eventually, did become 25-0, and then it became 26-0. In the process, India registered their best win in terms of victory margin. The previous record was when they had a certain Dhyan Chand in their line-up (against USA at the 1932 Olympics).Going past an 86-year-old record aside, there was — one could argue — no real point to these fixtures, as they largely fitted in with the overall trend.
In the 18 matches played so far by the men’s and women’s hockey teams in Jakarta, 192 goals have been scored at an average of 10.66 per hour. Want to know what the most-exciting match was? Bangladesh 2-1 Oman, a clash where more people were paid to be there than those who had paid to be there.The scores of the other 17 matches make for grim reading: 11-0, 11-0, 17-0, 8-0, 26-0, 10-0, 16-2, 6-1, 11-0, 8-0, 6-0, 9-0, 1-3, 8-0, 5-0, 21-0, and 10-0.
This is perhaps something that shouldn’t be happening at an elite meet like Asian Games. The main argument put forth by supporters of an expanded hockey competition was this: “Only when you give chances to the lesser nations, will they get to play, learn and improve”.That’s a noble thought, one that was also expressed by India skipper PR Sreejesh after their match against Hong Kong.
“Barring a couple, other Asian countries should try and work on improving their systems. At one point, even we were being thrashed by big margins. But we have worked and changed our systems to be where we are today.”
That theory, though, fails to hold water because scorelines across all field-hockey competitions at the Asiad level this century have produced lopsided results. At the 2006 Asian Games, China produced a monumental upset by beating India 3-2; a kind of a result that is not possible today because the gap between top-tier teams and inferior sides in Asia has never been wider. Asian Champions Trophy and Asia Cup are periodical reminders of this.
Pakistan team manager Hasan Sardar, a yesteryear great, reckons that Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) has to do something about this escalating situation. “I have known that a few of these nations sometimes even struggle to field a full team, and they come to tournaments under-prepared,” he told Express. “This is when you get such results (26-0). AHF should take this very seriously and make sure that the lesser teams come fully prepared.”
Harendra Singh didn’t mind the situation, because he has no qualms about the nature of these affairs. “We are treating these matches as practice.” When asked whether they would be practising on Thursday, his reply was laced with humour. “No. We have another practice match (against Japan, another of Asia’s underdog sides) on Friday.”
26-0: India’s biggest win in hockey.
24-1: Previous biggest win, vs USA in 1932 Olympics.
36-1: New Zealand bt Samoa in 1994, biggest win in international hockey.