India's Golden Girls Win The 5th Women's Asia Cup


Indian women win the Asia Cup, Photo courtesy AP

he 5th Women's Asia Cup was held at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in Delhi from February 1 to February 8. Eight teams competed in the 2004 Asia Cup, the largest in the tournament history.

Pool A comprised India, China, Malaysia and Kazakhastan, while Pool B comprised Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Sri Lanka. The importance of this tournament was that the winner would automatically qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Madrid.

The Asia Cup did not have any title sponsor, though Punjab National Bank and IFFCO chipped in with Rs. 5 lakhs each as co-sponsors. The previous edition of the Asia Cup, also held in Delhi in 1999, was sponsored by Hero Honda, the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer.

The Indian Women's Hockey Federation (IWHF) put up all the visiting teams in five-star hotels, but made the Indian team stay in dormitories in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium residential wing. Team coach M. K. Kaushik and manager Manjeet Kaur avoided commenting on the issue, but a player expressed the feelings of her team, "We feel bad when we see such double standards. Our morale goes low. It affects our mental approach to the tournament, as we get this inferiority complex. But no one would dare speak to IWHF secretary Mrs. Amrit Bose."

As Vineeta Pandey wrote in the Times of India, "At a time when the government is ready to help sportspersons with all means, and the media attention too has turned on them, why is the Indian women's hockey team not being treated at par with the others? Why are they being dumped like girls from a small village school? Mamta Kharab, Helen Mary, Surajlata Devi, Sanggai Chanu, these girls are our national stars, the Indian hopes rest on them. But, is it fair for us to ask them to give their best when their own federation itself is not giving them its best?"

The Indian girls were put up four to six players in one room, and had to wait in a long queue to wash their clothes, and once they returned from the training sessions, they queued up again to wash their personal clothes. They even had to get up early in the morning to beat the queue for using the toilets.

In a blatant case of double standards, the IWHF provided hotel accommodation to several Indian officials, but not to the Indian players. It would have been fair if the IWHF president Vidya Stokes or IWHF secretary Amrit Bose had stayed with the players in the dormitory, and seen how they lived.

Youngsters Mamata Kharab and Saba Anjum were playing international hockey after a gap of almost a year due to injuries. Mamta’s family members came in full strength to see her back in action and to cheer her, as did coach Kaushik's family and colleagues in the Haryana Government.

India's match results were as follows:

Photo courtesy Rediff.com

Date Result Goal Scorers (India)
Feb 1 India 4 - Malaysia 2 Mamta Kharab (7, 59 m)
Jasjeet Kaur (19 m)
Suman Bala (53 m, PC)
Feb 2 India 1 - China 1 Jyoti Sunita Kullu (68 m, PC)
Feb 4 India 8 - Kazakhastan 0 Surinder Kaur (1, 3 m)
Surajlata Devi (28 m, PC)
Sanggai Chanu (36, 60 m)
Saba Anjum (46 m)
Adeline Kerketta (50, 51 m)
Feb 6 India 5 - South Korea 0 (semis) Sanggai Chanu (15, 39 m)
Jasjeet Kaur (47 m)
Suman Bala (56, 64 m)
Feb 8 India 1 - Japan 0 (FINAL) Jasjeet Kaur (64 m)

It was payback time for India in the Asia Cup semi-finals and final. Back in the 2002 Busan Asian Games, hosts South Korea had brought down to earth Commonwealth champion India with a 5-0 thrashing. This remains India's biggest loss in a long time. However, in the Asia Cup, India returned the favour by beating South Korea 5-0.

Back in the 2002 Busan Asian Games, Japan had proved to be India's nemesis, beating India twice, including in the bronze medal game. However, in the Asia Cup final, India turned the tables on Japan by winning the final 1-0.

It was indeed a creditable win over Japan, whose squad for the Asia Cup comprised 14 members from their 2002 World Cup team and 12 from their 2002 Asian Games team. The Japanese team had a collective cap of more than 1100 internationals.

Japan had put in 6 months of rigorous training, including a camp in Australia, in their build up for the championship. The Japanese contingent even included a photographer and a video cameraman. These two would start filming the moment the Japanese team entered the stadium. That included warm up, practice, the actual game, and even the players resting on the sidelines.

En route to the final, Japan had scored 46 goals from 4 matches, including a 21-0 drubbing of Sri Lanka. In that process, Japan became the only team to score 20 goals since the Asia Cup's inception in 1985. However, the Indian team came up with a stupendous performance in the final to stop the rampaging Japanese and win their maiden Asia Cup crown.

Forward Jasjeet Kaur scored the winner in the 64th minute. Jasjeet was actually dispossessed by Chie Kimura on the 25-yard line when she tried to cut in from the right flank off a Sanggai Chanu through-pass. But the Japanese defender delayed in releasing the ball, and that gave Jasjeet enough time to fall back and snatch it. Once in control, Jasjeet ran in, side-footed two deep defenders with a neat dummy, and from the top of the 'D', slotted home a powerful drive that left Japanese custodian Rie Terazono stranded and gave India a direct entry into the 2006 World Cup.

The semi-finals and final were telecast live by national telecaster Doordarshan.

Helen Mary was declared the Goalkeeper of the Tournament. 16-year-old Jasjeet Kaur, who scored both in the semi-finals and in the final, was adjudged the "Youngest Promising Player" of the tournament. Jasjeet, the baby of the Indian team, is a Class 12th student of SGNP school in Shahabad Markhand near Ambala, Haryana.

The final positions were 1. India, 2. Japan, 3. China, 4. Korea, 5. Kazakhstan, 6. Malaysia, 7. Singapore, 8. Sri Lanka.

Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala announced a cash award of Rs. 1 lakh each to the four players from Haryana in the Asia Cup winning team - Jasjeet Kaur, Mamta Kharab, Suman Bala and Surinder Kaur. The chief minister also announced a cash prize of Rs. 51, 000 for the coach of the team, M. K. Kaushik.

Making these announcements in the Haryana Vidhan Sabha, Chautala said that it was a matter of great pride for the people of the state that the winning goal had been scored by Haryana girl Jasjeet Kaur.

IWHF president Vidya Stokes announced a cash award of Rs. 25,000 to each member of the team.

The Indian team for the 5th Women's Asia Cup was as follows:

Goalkeepers: Helen Mary, Deepika Murthy

Full-backs: Suman Bala, Kanti Baa, Binita Toppo

Midfielders: Sumarai Tete, Surajlata Devi (captain), Subhadra Pradhan, Masira Surin

Forwards: Surinder Kaur, Mamta Kharab, Saba Anjum Karim, Jyoti Sunita Kullu, Sanggai Chanu, Adeline Kerketta, Jasjeet Kaur, Manju and Pushpa Pradhan

Officials: M. K. Kaushik (chief coach), M. R. Negi (goalkeeping coach)

Hail Mary! Goalkeeper Plays with Fractured Finger


he was in excruciating pain and thought it was all over for her. But somehow she stayed on the field and brought off some breathtaking saves to help India beat Japan and win its maiden women's Asia Cup hockey title in New Delhi.

Indian custodian Helen Mary not only withstood the onslaught of the Japanese strikers but also the pain of a fractured little finger for the entire 70 minutes in the summit clash, which India won 1-0. Helen was instrumental in ensuring that the Japanese could not convert even 1 of the 10 penalty corners that came their way, including 2 in the closing moments of the game, when India was gamely defending its slender 1-0 lead.

"I sustained an injury to my little finger five minutes before the match during the warm-up," Mary revealed. "Since I had already warmed up, I could keep the tempo but once the match was over I started to feel that something was really wrong and hence went for an X-ray," she said.

The X-ray revealed that Mary had sustained a fracture in her little finger. "It will now take about a month to heal," Mary added.

The team's goalkeeping coach, M. R. Negi, said Mary was fielded as the team management did not think the injury was that serious. "She was feeling the pain and was also having problems in gripping the stick. But we applied an ice pack to her finger for some time and then she played," he said.

Coach Kaushik was all praise for the Indian custodian Helen Mary. "It was Helen who came up with some brilliant saves to keep India in the match," he said.

For her superlative display, Helen Mary was adjudged the Goalkeeper of the Tournament.

On What Basis Are the Indian Women Out of the Olympic Qualifiers?


Article courtesy Arumugam of Stick2hockey.com

he FIH is known for introducing something with great wisdom and later discarding it with even greater wisdom. We have seen this trait rearing its ugly head many times in the past, killing the very sport it seeks to govern.

In 2001, the FIH introduced with great wisdom a two-tier format for World Cup qualifiers and the World Cup proper. We came across a horror called Preliminary Round and Championship Round. That was how the host of the 2001 World Cup Qualifier, Scotland, was shut out from the competition after just three matches, and then asked to play six more matches of no consequence.

The fact that the 2002 Women's World Cup in Perth and the 2002 Men's World Cup in Kuala Lumpur declined to follow the illogical format resulted in an unceremonious burial of the FIH’s brainwave.

Per the FIH's ranking system, India is the first reserve country for the Olympic Qualifier in Auckland, despite the fact that they won the 2002 Commonwealth Games gold, the 2003 Afro-Asian Games gold and the 2004 Asia Cup gold.

At the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in Delhi, the Indian team made a mockery of FIH's flawed rankings, defeating Champions Challenge bronze medal winner Japan in the Asia Cup final. Indian women have won 3 of the 4 tournaments they played in the last two years, yet are not considered good enough by the FIH to compete in the Olympic Qualifier. Just because two years ago India lost a World Cup playoff. And you suffer for it till the next Olympics!

How on earth can the performance in the World Cup affect the ranking of teams for the next two years? More so when the defending champion of the World Cup is not even considered, rightly of course, for the next World Cup.

The moot point is, do the performances in tournaments after the World Cup not count at all? Based solely on the final standings in the World Cup, the Champions Trophy and the Champions Challenge fields were decided. What about teams not in the World Cup, or those that fared badly in the World Cup? Don’t you see that only a handful of teams are being cycled and recycled in all the FIH competitions, while most others are being deprived of a level playing field?

The FIH cannot arbitrarily decided that the tournaments they organize are more important than others? This is a wrong policy. The FIH ranking system that is presently in vogue should be discarded at least on the ground that no major decision should come into effect before the Olympics. Since major rule changes are introduced after the Olympics, not before it, this ranking system that came before the Olympics deserve to be put in the dustbin of hockey history.

I feel it is not too late for the FIH to invite India to the Olympic Qualifier, asking India to bear its own expenses. The same way that the FIH once expanded the Champions Trophy field to 7 teams to accommodate Pakistan, the FIH should enlarge the Auckland Olympic Qualifier field into twelve and bring in India.

Women's Asia Cup History Over The Years


Based on a series of articles by Arumugam on Stick2hockey.com

uring the 1962 Ahmedabad International hockey tournament, India mooted the formation of an Asian association for women's hockey. Soon an ad hoc Asian Women's Hockey Association was formed with Lucknow's Aizaz Rasool, then president of the All India Women's Hockey Association, as its first president, and Japan’s Mrs. Iwsa as the first secretary. The inaugural meeting of the Asian Women's Hockey Association was held in Delhi in 1964.

India and Japan then joined together to propose an Asian Championship in early 1968. The tournament featured India, Ceylon, Japan, and two African countries, Kenya and Uganda. Japan won the Asian Championship final defeating Uganda. Four years later, the All-India Women's Hockey Association become the first Asian women's association to get affiliated to the FIH.

Incidentally, the Indian Hockey Federation was the first Asian country to get affiliated to the FIH, back in the 1920s. India was also the first Asian country to be affiliated to the International Olympic Committee.

Women's hockey competitions in Asia took a roller coaster ride subsequently. Let us fast forward to 1980, when the Indian women participated in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Two years later, when India hosted the 1982 Asian Games, it introduced women's hockey into the Asian Games, a watershed development in the growth of women's hockey in Asia. India went on to win the first Asian Games gold, which even after 22 years remains their solitary Asiad gold. South Korea, which got the right to host both 1986 Asian Games and 1988 Olympics, organized the first Asia Cup at the Hyo Chang Stadium in Seoul in September 1985.

The 6-day 6-nation Women's Asia Cup was the first international hockey tournament hosted by South Korea. The Koreans made it memorable winning all their five matches and walking away with the winner’s prize, the Tun Abdul Razak Trophy.

Asian Games gold medallist India did not participate in the inaugural Women's Asia Cup since the IWHF could not get training camps sanctioned by the government of India in time. China did not participate in the inaugural Women's Asia Cup as there was controversy on who could represent the country between Taiwan and Communist China. In the end, neither was invited!

By the time the second Women's Asia Cup was held in December 1989, South Korea had made strong inroads into global hockey. They had won the Seoul Asiad hockey gold, and the Champions Trophy gold on their maiden attempt in Frankfurt, Germany. However, China, making their first foray into international women's hockey, dethroned South Korea in the second Asia Cup.

For the third Asia Cup held in Hiroshima in November 1993, the IWHF, headed by the knowledgeable Arnavaz Damania, brought in Moscow Olympics gold medallist M. K. Kaushik as the chief coach. The Indian team contained many new faces like the incomparable Seeta Gusain, dashing striker Pritam Rani Thakran (now Siwach), inside-forward Manjinder Kaur, solid defender Sandeep Kaur, winger Aleyamma Mathews and goalkeeper Tingonleima Chanu. Only the other goalkeeper Donito D’Mellow and pivot Rajbir Rai belonged to the old generation.

Led by Rajbir Rai, India won the bronze at Hiroshima on Divali day of 1993, beating Japan 1-0 in the third place playoff, the winning goal emanating from the stick of Aleyamma Mathews. This was considered a solid start towards revitalising Indian women's hockey. After the bronze in 1993, there was no looking back as India won the silver in the next edition in 1999, followed by the gold medal in 2004.

The Women's Asia Cup results over the years are as follows:

Year Venue Gold Silver Bronze
Sep 1985 Seoul South Korea Japan Malaysia
Dec 1989 Hong Kong China Japan South Korea
Nov 1993 Hiroshima South Korea China India
Dec 1999 Delhi South Korea India China
Feb 2004 Delhi India Japan China


Indian Men's Team Yet To Win A Single Match in 2004


hat a difference an year can make. Back in 2003, the Indian men's team won 4 of the 6 tournaments they participated in. India won 59% of the matches it played in 2003 (16/27), scoring an average of 3.44 goals per match (93/27). The top scorers for India in 2003 were its young guns Gagan Ajeet Singh (20 goals) and Prabhjyot Singh (18 goals).

However, the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) has failed to carry this momentum into 2004. The Indian men are yet to win a single match in this Olympic year, and are scoring at the rate of barely over a goal a game. Last year's top scorers Gagan and Prabhjyot have scored only a goal a piece this year.

The IHF sent a junior India team, along with the junior India coach, to the senior level Azlan Shah Cup. In the event, the Indian team failed to win a single match, and ended up 7th and last. Some points are in order regarding this flawed and foolish approach of the IHF.

When selecting an India team for any international tournament, the IHF has to send a team that will finish among the medals. That will ensure that India will continue to maintain, or improve on its FIH rankings.

Needless to say, winning matches is also the IHF's responsibility to the long-suffering Indian hockey fan, who would like to see India's prestige held high at the world level. Instead, fans across India saw on live television a totally mismatched Indian team fail to win a single match in the tournament. Just imagine the thousands of young fans that would have been put off. After all, who would want to back a perpetually losing team?

And it has been a financial disaster for the hosts. MHF secretary S. Satgunam confirmed that several Indian companies pulled out as sponsors after learning that a B team was being sent.

“We lost up to RM 200,000 financially,” said Satgunam. “We lost a number of potential sponsors. We pay all the expenses for this tournament and the least we expect from the participating teams is to send their best players.”

Besides the loss in the sponsorship, MHF also took a hit on the gate collections. After the first nine days of the competition, the MHF could only rake in RM 95,025.

How much experimentation does the IHF intend to carry out, and at what cost? After the Indian team won the Asia Cup, the IHF 'rested' 7 players of the victorious team - Dhanraj Pillai, Baljeet Singh Dhillon, Baljeet Singh Saini, Dinesh Nayak, Tejbeer Singh, Deedar Singh and Kamaldeep Singh - from the Afro-Asian Games held the following month.

Then, after the Indian team won the Afro-Asian Games, the IHF discarded 10 players of the victorious team - Gagan Ajeet Singh, Prabhjyot Singh, Deepak Thakur, Viren Rasquinha, Bimal Lakra, Prabodh Tirkey, Dileep Tirkey, Kanwalpreet Singh, Devesh Chauhan and Bharat Chettri - from the subsequent tournament, the 2004 Azlan Shah Cup.

What was the result of this foolish experimentation? The IHF sent virtually a junior team to a tournament that featured six other teams in the top 10 in the world. As was expected, 3-time Azlan Shah winners India ended up last the in the tournament, the only time they have finished at the rank bottom. India came into the Azlan Shah tournament as the reigning Asia Cup champion. However, three other Asian teams - Pakistan (2nd), South Korea (3rd) and Malaysia (6th), finished higher than India.

Did India lose a valuable opportunity for match practice by sending a sub-standard team to the Azlan Shah Cup? By what logic can the India-Netherlands 3-test series be considered as important preparation for the Qualifier for India to select its best team, but the 7-nation Azlan Shah tournament, held just a fortnight earlier, was not considered as important preparation.

What exactly was the IHF thinking when it sent a mainly junior team to a tournament that featured full-strength teams from World Cup champions Germany, World Cup runners-up Australia, Asian Games champion South Korea and defending champion Pakistan? Can't the IHF learn from other countries' mistakes? Germany similarly fielded a junior team in the 2003 Champions Trophy, and ended up last. South Korea also tinkered with their squad, which backfired miserably in 2003, as a result of which South Korea had to recall senior stars with a proven track record like Song Seung Tae and Yew Woon Kon back into the team for the Azlan Shah tournament.

The tournament was to be a platform to prepare teams for the Athens Olympics, not for the Junior Asia Cup.

What is the logic in not sending your strongest team to a tournament? Will the Indian cricket team dare send a junior team to a senior tournament and come last, all in the name of experimentation. Will India's chess superstar Vishwanathan Anand opt to play well only in certain tournaments, but purposely play below strength in other tournaments so as to not expose his game. No other Indian sports team or sportsperson adheres to such a flawed logic, they play to win every time they step on the field or arena.

If the IHF wants to experiment, let it hold more domestic tournaments and start holding the annual national championships or form a National Hockey League to get a wider pool of players. Or, if they invite international teams to India, they can rotate junior players for the different tests.

But they should stop making radical changes to winning Indian teams and sending untested rookies to international tournaments. Such policies only make the IHF, and sadly Indian hockey too, a laughing stock in world hockey.

India's poor performance has sparked off strong resentment in the Malaysian Hockey Federation. "The IHF has cheated us; we will seriously consider whether to ever invite India again in future," fumed the secretary, Mr. Satgunam.

"There are many teams clamouring to come here – like the Dutch, Kiwis and English. We don't need sub-standard teams from the Indian subcontinent."

India End Up 7th and LAST in Azlan Shah Tournament


Baljeet Dhillon, with a cast on his fractured nose, tries to stop Jiva Mohan of Malaysia
Photograph by Jimin Lai, AFP/Getty Images, courtesy Rediff.com

he 13th Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament was held at the National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, from January 8 to January 18. Seven teams competed in the tournament - Australia, Germany and South Korea - who have already qualified for the Athens Olympics by winning their respective continental championships, and India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Spain, who will meet again in March in Madrid for the Olympic qualifier.

IHF apparently confused the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament with the Junior Asia Cup. The IHF included 10 Junior Asia Cup players in the team, and even changed the coach from Rajinder Singh to Harendra Singh, the chief coach of the junior team.

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) rightfully objected to India sending a weak team, and even threatened to cancel India's entry. After all, the Azlan Shah is an all-expenses-paid invitation-only senior-level tournament, and there was no reason for the MHF to foot the bill for a junior Indian team. Under pressure from the MHF, the IHF backtracked and included 6 seniors from the Asia Cup winning team - Dhanraj Pillai, Baljeet Singh Dhillon, Ignace Tirkey, Arjun Halappa, Sandeep Michael and Kamaldeep Singh - for the Azlan Shah tournament.

The 34-year-old Indian coach Harendra Singh, who was assistant coach to V. Bhaskaran for the Sydney Olympics, said, "The Indian team will do the talking on the field and prove the critics wrong. We have a team strong enough to beat all our opponents. Any team which underestimates us will pay a heavy price." Brave words indeed. India failed to win a single match in the tournament, and finished 7th and last.

Pakistani players had 3 hat-tricks in 3 consecutive matches. In the match against India, 26-year old Sohail Abbas scored thrice from penalty-corners in the 13th, 27th and 51st minutes to ensure a 3-2 victory over arch-rivals India. In their next match against Spain, Shabbir Hussain (6th minute) and Kashif Jawaad (17th, 45th and 66th minutes) ensured a comfortable 4-2 victory for Pakistan.

Then, in their next match, Pakistan pulled off an amazing 4-3 victory over world champions Germany thanks to another hat-trick by penalty-corner specialist Sohail Abbas (42nd, 51st, 59th minutes). In the match against Germany, Pakistan came back from 0-1, 1-2 and 2-3 deficits to draw level each time, before finally getting the match-winner from Mohammad Nadeem in the 65th minute. The Pakistan offense scored the most goals in the tournament (21), more than double the number of goals scored by India (10).

The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup was the first tournament to enforce the new FIH rule banning the change of stick by penalty corner flickers. It did not seem to make any difference for India - 12 of 19 goals conceded by India were off penalty corners, including the first 7 goals in a row.

Date Result Goal Scorers (India)
January 8 Germany 3 - India 1 Sandeep Singh (19 m)
January 9 Pakistan 3 - India 2 Baljeet Dhillon (15 m)
Rajpal Singh (18 m)
January 11 India 2 - Malaysia 2 Len Ayyappa (22 m, PC)
Arjun Halappa (64 m)
January 13 Australia 4 - India 2 Dhanraj Pillai (15, 16 m)
January 14 South Korea 3 - India 2 Len Ayyappa (16 m, PC)
Arjun Halappa (63 m, PS)
January 16 Spain 4 - India 1 Len Ayyappa (66 m)

Australia beat Pakistan 4-3 in the final to join India and Pakistan as the only 3-time winners of the tournament. Australia has won the Azlan Shah tournament once in each of the last 3 decades (1983, 1998, 2004).

Pakistan started strongly in the tournament, winning its first four matches under new coach Roelant Oltmans. However, Pakistan seemed to have peaked early, for they were winless in their last three matches and finished second. Pakistan even had an extra day of rest before the final as compared to Australia, but it was of no avail.

Defending champion Pakistan thus start the new year by losing the only title they had in their kitty - the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, won by them in 2003.

Colin Batch, the coach of the victorious Australian team, sounded a warning to his opponents, "We came to this tournament without a few key players who are injured. What you saw here is not a finished product. But the key players will be back soon (captain Paul Gaudoin, goalkeeper Stephen Lambert and Bevan George) for our main target, the Olympics. We have some eight months left for the Olympics, and I am sure we will be a far better side at Athens."

Baljeet Singh Dhillon suffered a hairline fracture on his nose during India's match against Malaysia and he had a cast put on his face. Dhanraj Pillai suffered a knee injury in the match against Australia, close on the heels of the ligament tear he suffered in the Nehru tournament a couple of months back.

The following were the tournament awards - Player of the tournament: Lee Jung Seon (Korea); Top scorer: Sohail Abbas (Pakistan) with 10 goals; Most promising player: Santiago Freixa (Spain); Fairplay Trophy: Australia.

Final positions: 1. Australia, 2. Pakistan, 3. Korea, 4. Germany, 5. Spain 6. Malaysia and 7. India.

Before the tournament started, IHF secretary Jyothikumaran stated that this was the best team India had, taking into account injuries to some players. It speaks badly of the standard of Indian hockey that what was touted as India's best team finished last in the tournament.

The Indian team for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup was as follows:

Goalkeepers: Kamaldeep Singh, Adrian D'Souza

Full-backs: Harpal Singh, William Xalxo, Sandeep Singh

Midfielders: Vikram Pillai, Ignace Tirkey, Len Ayyappa, Prabhdeep Singh, V. S. Vinay, Girish Pimpale

Forwards: Dhanraj Pillai, Baljeet Singh Dhillon, Hari Prasad, Sandeep Michael, Tushar Khandekar, Arjun Halappa, Rajpal Singh

Officials: Harinder Singh (coach), Clarence Lobo, Ramandeep Singh, A. B. Subbaiah, Dr Saju Joseph

It Was Dutchman vs. Dutchman at the Azlan Shah tournament


he last two Olympic gold medal winning hockey coaches, both from Netherlands, were seen in action coaching two foreign teams in the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament.

Coach Roelant Oltmans, who guided Holland to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 1998 Utrecht World Cup gold medals, was hired as Pakistan's coach in December 2003, while his compatriot Maurits Hendriks, who helped the Dutch team retain the gold in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, was hired in June 2003 as the Spanish team's coach.

Pakistan were on a roll under the guidance of Oltmans in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, his first tournament as the Pakistan national coach. Pakistan went on to win their first four matches under Oltmans - beating South Korea (4-2), India (3-2), Spain (4-2) and world champions Germany (4-3). Pakistan ended up second in the Azlan Shah Cup, losing only one match in the entire tournament - the final.

Hendriks guided Spain to the Champions Challenge title in South Africa in July 2003 and a silver medal in the prestigious European championships in September 2003. Spain also showed their mettle under Hendriks when they stunned World Cup runners-up Australia 3-1 in the Azlan Shah tournament.

However, the matchup between the two Dutch coaches went in Oltmans' favour as Pakistan beat Spain 4-2 in the Azlan Shah tournament.

Pakistan are really serious in winning the Olympic gold as they also have the services of three other foreign experts - Ronald Jansen of the Netherlands is the goalkeepers' coach, fellow Dutchman Derk Verder is the physiotherapist, while Roberto Tolentino of Italy is the video analyst.

The last time Pakistan hired a foreign coach was a decade back in 1994, when the PHF appointed Jans Horritsma, also from Netherlands, as the national coach. Pakistan went on to win both the Champions Trophy and the World Cup in 1994, their last major titles in world hockey.

And what about the Dutch national team? Netherlands has hired an Australian coach Terry Walsh to coach their team.

Naval Tata Memorial India-Netherlands 3-Test Series


3-test series between India and Netherlands was held in the floodlit Gachibowli sports complex in Hyderabad from February 5 - 8. The series was played for the Naval Tata memorial trophy, instituted to commemorate the birth centenary of the former President of the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and the ex-Director of Tata Sons.

Naval Tata was the first president of the IHF in independent India. Under his term (1947-1958), India won three Olympic gold medals in London (1948), Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956). In 1958, Naval Tata stepped down, passing on the baton to Ashwini Kumar.

It was during Tata's term that the national hockey championship acquired a trophy for the winner. The proprietors of the newspaper The Hindu presented the Rangaswami Cup in 1951 at the Madras nationals, in memory of one of the newspaper's editors, S. Rangaswamy.

With the experiment of fielding newcomers for the Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament proving disastrous, the IHF fielded a full-strength team for the three-Test series against the two-time defending Olympic hockey champion Netherlands, which was playing a one-on-one test series in India after more than a quarter century.

India's match results in the Naval Tata Memorial Series were as follows:

Date Result Goal Scorers (India)
Feb 5 India 1 - Netherlands 1 Gagan Ajeet Singh (45 m)
Feb 7 Netherlands 2 - India 1 Baljeet Singh Dhillon (56 m, PC)
Feb 8 Netherlands 2 - India 1 Prabhjyot Singh (63 m, PC)

In the 78 matches played between India and Netherlands, India has won 30, Netherlands has won 30 and 18 matches have ended in a draw. 11 bilateral test series have been held between India and Netherlands, the first being hosted by Netherlands in 1955. India has hosted the series 5 times, and Netherlands 6. The 11 bilateral series featured a total of 26 matches, of which India has won 9, Netherlands 8, while the remaining 9 were drawn.

Doordarshan Sports provided live telecast of all 3 matches of the series.

Vikram Pillai was declared the Player of the Series. Mrs. Simone Tata, Director, Tata Industries, and wife of the late Naval Tata, gave away the trophy to the winning team.

The Indian team for the India-Netherlands 3-test series was as follows:

Goalkeepers: Devesh Chauhan, Kanvaldeep Singh, Bharat Chettri

Full-backs: Kanvalpreet Singh, Harpal Singh, William Xalco, Dileep Tirkey (captain)

Midfielders: Ignace Tirkey, Vimal Lakra, Vikram Pillai, Viren Rasquinha, Len Ayyappa

Forwards: Gagan Ajeet Singh, Baljeet Singh Dhillon, Prabhjyot Singh, Arjun Halappa, Sandeep Michael, Tejveer Singh, V. S. Vinay, Inderjit Singh, Deedar Singh

Officials: Chief Coach - Rajinder Singh, Assistant Coach - Baldev Singh, Goalkeeping Coach - A. B. Subbaiah

Hockey Captain Dileep Tirkey Awarded the Padma Shree


Tirkey receiving the Utkal Gaurav award from Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik in Bhubanesvar (PTI Photo)

ependable defender Dileep Tirkey has been chosen for coveted civilian award Padam Shree. He becomes the 15th Indian hockey player to get the award since its inception in 1957. The annual award is given to civilians who excel in various walk of life. The announcement of Government of India, made on the eve of 25th Republic Day, has won the hearts of sports lovers.

Along with Dileep Tirkey, cricket captain Saurav Ganguly, vice-captain Rahul Dravid and Anju Joseph, who won the bronze at the last World Athletic championship were also awarded the Padma Shree, which will be conferred by President of India in a month's time.

Tirkey, under whose captaincy India won the inaugural Afro–Asian Games recently, will be the first Adivasi (tribal) to be decorated with a Padma Shree. This will be Indian hockey’s fourth Padma Shree in the last 6 years, after Pargat Singh (1998), Dhanraj Pillai (2000) and Mukesh Kumar (2002).

On learning of the announcement, Olympian Jagbeer Singh said from Agra: "This is wonderful news. Dileep Tirkey richly deserves this award, all the more because he is the first tribal to get this top civilian honour. His skills are superb, especially anticipation. He comes ahead and receives the ball, a sign of confidence. In one-on-one situations, he is hardly dodged, and can win the ball nine times out of ten.

Dileep is very important to the Indian team. I can compare him with Manohar Topno in term of skills and style. His tackling is similar to indoor hockey as he all the time manages to keep the stick flat. This skill came to him naturally though he never played indoor hockey. He is outstanding in all the matches he plays, it is difficult to say 'Oh, he played well in this tournament, badly in that tournament'. Dileep has a rare consistency which I hardly see in many others.

Another thing about him is being non-controversial. He cooperates with all the coaches. He is a favourite of the coaches because he is a good listener. He speaks less, Dileep believes in doing rather than just talking."

Article courtesy Arumugam of Stick2hockey.com

Photograph of the Month


Photograph and text courtesy Great Indian Olympians by Ezekiel and Arumugam

he Indian hockey team participated in an International Hockey Festival in Warsaw, Poland, in 1954. The above depicts a young female fan in Warsaw who switched her hat with the turban of Balkrishan Singh for this photograph.

Double Olympian (1956, 1960) Balkrishan Singh is most known for being a 4-time coach of the Indian Olympic hockey team. He first coached the Indian team in the 1968 Olympics, where India fell to the bronze medal status for the first time (until then India had won either the gold or the silver in all the Olympics they participated in).

Balkrishan then coached the 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medal winning Indian hockey team, and in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, where India finished 5th.

His final stint as the Indian Olympic coach was in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. In the run up to Barcelona, India won the 1991 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup by being victorious in all its matches, and in a 15-match European tour prior to Barcelona, India had an excellent 12W-1L-2D record. However, player's greed and indiscipline resulted in India finishing a disappointing 7th at the Barcelona Olympics.

Of the 45 matches that Balkrishan coached India in the Olympics, World Cup, Champions Trophy and Asian Games, India had a 29W-7L-9D record. Four of the seven losses came in the Barcelona Olympics alone, that being the only dark patch in an otherwise consistent career. Balkrishan-coached Indian teams lost only twice to Pakistan in 14 meetings, which is a tribute to his coaching prowess.

Money Matters


s many as 15 astroturf fields will be installed in Pakistan over the next 3 years. According to PHF Secretary Musarratullah Khan, 5 astro-turf pitches will be laid in Karachi, Lahore, Abbotabad, Rawalpindi and Peshawar by the end of 2004. Other cities that have been alloted astro-turf pitches include Hyderabad, Bahavalpur, Khuzdar, Gujrat, Gujranvala and two sites in Quetta.

Work has already started on the laying of a poligras turf at the Lala Ayub Hockey Stadium in Peshawar at the cost of Rs. 70 lakhs. Experts had started laying of the turf in December 2003, and the work would be completed by the end of March.

Also, a sum of Rs. 3.5 crores will be spent by the West Punjab government to renovate, upgrade and give a completely new look to the National Hockey Stadium at Lahore, which will be hosting the 26th edition of the Champions Trophy.

PHF secretary Musarratullah Khan pointed out that the upgrading and renovation work is being carried out as per a comprehensive blueprint, not only to host the Champions Trophy but to also build a full fledged modern hockey training academy with the erection of a 60-room hostel. This will be the first ever modern hockey academy in Pakistan.

The six teams in the 2004 Champions Trophy include host Pakistan, defending champion Netherlands, World Cup champion Germany, Olympic Champion (TBD) and the next highest ranked teams from the 2004 Olympics.

In other money matters, the 2004 NBP Junior National Championship of Pakistan that was held in Karachi from January 15 to January 25, was co-sponsored by Export Processing Zone (EPZ) and Culligan.

EPZ chairman, Lt. Col. (retd.) Syed Akbar Hussain said at the media briefing that EPZ has some ambitious plans for the future, which include looking after sports, especially hockey. The colonel said that sponsoring the Junior Nationals was part of a long-term relationship between EPZ and Pakistan hockey.

Media Matters


he host of Australia's Channel 7's Sunrise programme, David Koch, was interviewing Australian captain Katrina Powell after her team won the 2003 Champions Trophy in Sydney. When Koch learnt the Australian women's hockey team was without a sponsor, he ‘adopted’ the Hockeyroos and put out a call for the corporate community to get behind the team.

ANZ, Australia’s leading banking and financial services group, answered the call and signed up as the team’s naming rights partner for 2004. The agreement is for one year with a two-year option. Under the terms of the partnership, the Australian women's hockey team will be known as the ANZ Hockeyroos.

With the squad requiring to make a number of personal sacrifices to achieve their goals, including relocating to Perth for a six-month centralised program, the financial assistance of ANZ will help greatly in the Hockeyroos’ continued pursuit of excellence.

“Not only will the ANZ sponsorship provide significant financial benefit to the program, but importantly, the team will feel their worth is appreciated by one of Australia’s leading companies,” Hockey Australia Chief Executive, Linden Adamson said.

With the Indian women's having won the Commonwealth Games gold in 2002, the Afro-Asian Games gold in 2003 and the Asia Cup gold in 2004, can the Indian women's hockey team get a corporate sponsor? Should not the Indian women's team's success on the field over the last couple of years be acknowledged and rewarded? Is it fair to ignore the Indian women's team, Corporate India?

On January 28, 2004, Indian men's hockey team sponsors Sahara India Parivar gave away Rs 1.5 lakhs to each member of the Afro-Asian Games gold medal-winning squad. The 16 players as well as five officials, including the coach, were handed over cheques at Gurgaon, where a preparatory camp for the 3-test series against Olympic champions Holland was going on. Nearly Rs. 32 lakhs was dispersed that day.

"Sahara India Parivar feels proud of the Indian men's team's victory at the 2003 Afro-Asian Games, and fulfilling our sponsor's commitments is just another way of infusing enthusiasm in the players," Abhijit Sarkar, Sahara's Corporate Communications chief, said in a statement.

What about infusing enthusiasm in the Indian women 's hockey team, who are the reigning champions of Asia, Africa and the Commonwealth?

Visitor of the Month


Ramesh Parameswaran of the Karnataka State Hockey Association (KSHA), Bangalore, is this edition's Visitor of the Month. He represented Mysore/Karnataka from 1969 to 1981, played for India in the 8th Asian Games in Bangkok (1978) and the Pre-Olympics Tournament in Moscow (1979), and has been coaching Karnataka from 1985 till date. He has had the following results as the Indian hockey team's assistant coach:

Date Venue Tournament Position
Sep 1997 Milton Keynes Junior World Cup 2nd
Mar 1998 India, Pakistan Indo-Pak Hockey Series Lost 3-4
May 1998 Utrecht World Cup 9th
Sep 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games 4th
Aug 1999 South Africa South African tour Lost 0-3

Ramesh Parameswaran wrote the following to BharatiyaHockey.org

Last year the KSHA conducted its first Level III Course for coaching aspirants. Most of the coaches shared their knowledge which they have acquired over the years/decades of association with the game as player/coach. I am herewith sending you the course material for your information.

I intend to attend the FIH High Performance Coaching Course to be held during the Olympic Qualifier at Madrid, am still waiting for approval from FIH. I plan to present a paper on 'Responsibility of the 11 Players on the Field.'

Otherwise, I am busy with my job at the Reserve Bank of India and as coach and guide. I believe in open sharing of my hockey knowledge to people who come to me.

Fun With Numbers


his week's edition of Fun with Numbers is based on the matches in the 2004 Azlan Shah tournament. Only two countries failed to win a single match in the 2004 Azlan Shah - 6th-placed Malaysia, who ended up with 4 losses and 3 draws, and 7th-placed India, who finished with 5 losses and 1 draw in the tournament. All the other teams registered at least 3 victories in the tournament.

Malaysia and India have met 10 times in the Azlan Shah tournaments. India has won on 7 occasions, two ended in a draw, and Malaysia managed to chalk up 1 victory over India.

On another note, Malaysia has beaten Australia only once in modern hockey. Their sole victory over the Aussies came in the Azlan Shah Cup in Penang in 1994, when Malaysia won 3-1, with all the goals coming from their then skipper Nor Saiful Zaini.

Finally, when India met Australia in the Azlan Shah tournament, it was the 75th meeting between the two giants. Australia has won 49 of the 75 matches (65% winning record). As Ric Charlesworth observed in his book 'The Coach - Managing for Success', one generation of Australians never won against India, while the other generation has never lost to India.

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