Eye on future, hockey federation waves goodbye to the past

The comments under the messages composed by Rupinder Pal Singh and SV Sunil on Twitter is an indication of their popularity among Indian hockey fans.

Published: 02nd October 2021 09:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd October 2021 09:20 AM   |  A+A-

Indian hockey team forward SV Sunil

Indian hockey team forward SV Sunil (File Photo | AFP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The comments under the messages composed by Rupinder Pal Singh and SV Sunil on Twitter is an indication of their popularity among Indian hockey fans. Every third message had the red heart emoji. Biren Lakra, too, had a similar outpouring of affection under Hockey India's post.

The reaction, though, was understandable. They have all contributed to the upsurge - both in terms of performances and medals - over the last seven years. 2014 Asian Games gold, 2015 World League bronze, 2016 Champions Trophy silver, 2017 World League bronze and, of course, 2021 Olympics bronze. Now, though, is the time to look forward to the next three years and beyond.

There is another home World Cup in early 2023 followed by the Olympics in 2024. If the men’s team is to properly use the momentum gained by medalling in Tokyo, you suspect they would have to medal in both those upcoming global meets.

That's the reason why Rupinder, Sunil and Lakra have decided to move away from the game they have so enriched over the last decade. In a modern sporting context, 30 (Rupinder), 31 (Lakra) and 32 (Sunil) is positively young.

However, with HI having told them in no uncertain terms that their playing time will dwindle in the next Olympic cycle, they have taken the decision to retire (Sunil is taking a break but a lot of dominoes will have to fall in place if he’s to wear the India jersey again).

There are others too who might take the step in the days to come. With HI wanting to go down a different route considering the two global meets coming up, the message has gone out to some players that a call-up may not be forthcoming. I

It's in this context that Graham Reid, apart from BJ Kariappa, started overseeing the preparations of the team for the upcoming junior World Cup in November-December.

The hope is that the Australian, who has been pencilled in to travel with the contingent to the World Cup in Bhubaneswar, will earmark several players having the capacity of successfully making the jump from junior to seniors.

One of the victories behind the country’s 2016 junior World Cup win wasn't the win itself but how many players used that as a platform to transition to the senior programme (more than half-a-dozen players of that side played in Tokyo).

Reid's job now is to establish a similar conveyor belt that will see few players use the junior World Cup as a stepping stone to play for the senior side.

Schopman's new role

Janneke Schopman, back in Bengaluru after a short break in the US, has a new title: 'Chief Coach of the women's team'. It’s not a surprise, though. As was reported by this newspaper almost two months ago, she was the favourite to assume that mantle post the departure of Sjoerd Marijne.

Interestingly, there is no official word yet on whether she has received an updated version of the contract; her last contract, when she was employed by SAI as analytical coach, expired on September 30. Her new title as 'chief coach', however, is public information on Hockey India's official website.

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