BENGALURU : Dribbling with utmost ease, wizardry with sticks down the wings, dodging and one-twos. Those were the characteristic features of Indian hockey. But times have changed. A lot of these elements have gone missing. India, too, have adopted the more physical and tactical style introduced by the Europeans. It’s been a while that they have followed this model.
So instead of display of skills, Indians are focussed more on that particular template of quick passing and releasing these days. A majority of observers feel this has led to the demise of the traditional Asian style. That’s true if one looks at the records. In the last eight editions of the Olympics, India or Pakistan never came close to a medal. Germany (3), the Netherlands (2), Great Britain, Australia and Argentina won the title in this period.
Abandoning the traditional Indian style completely has its own drawbacks, feels former India player Deepak Thakur. In town as coach of Indian Oil Corporation Limited, Mumbai, in the ongoing BHA Super Division championship, the former forward said bringing back certain traits of the traditional style may work in favour of players from this region.
“At present, India is also playing the European style and the Asian style is completely missing. Some of the players, who have played for India at the international level, are with me (in IOCL) and they do not know about the Asian style. They do not have great knowledge about return passing or one-two passes. This is a problem. If players can get familiar with the Asian style, it will benefit them,” said Thakur.
When most of the international teams are following the European model, can Indians resort to their traditional ways? To compete against teams like Australia, Netherlands and Germany, don’t they have to be good at what they are? Thakur says this needs careful blending of the two styles. If this is done, Indians can add a bit of surprise element to their game.
“When all teams are playing like this, you also need a second pattern of play. You can add the Asian style, like doing the dodge and return passes. If you somehow develop this in the game, you will be able to break open the defence of other teams. Absence of the Asian style is hurting India, to a certain extent.”
With India presently having foreign coaches — Graham Reid as head coach and Chris Ciriello as analytical coach — seeking help from the likes of Dhanraj Pillay would benefit the team, feels Thakur. “Together with the European style, if former players like Prabhjot Singh and Pillay, who know about the Asian style base, are involved with the team, we can have the best of both worlds.”