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Our appetite for winning was simply not there

By Dhanraj Pillay
August 25, 2004 01:26 IST
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We lost to New Zealand, but the Kiwis did India a favour by beating South Africa 4-1. It made our passage to the 5th to 8th placing playoffs much easier. All we needed was a draw against Argentina to make the cut. We managed the draw and now we face Pakistan to fight for the 5th to 6th placing play-offs.

We shifted to attacking hockey against New Zealand and Argentina, but played poorly in both the matches. We created chances, which our forwards failed to convert.

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I do not wish to be drawn into a discussion on the umpiring but I must say that it was right to officially protest against the umpires' decisions after the match against New Zealand. It definitely helped us against Argentina. The umpires were far more cautious while blowing their whistles against India.

At the end of the pool matches, I sat down to make an honest analysis about why we could not do too well this time. Our defence, apart from Dilip Tirkey, looked to be in total disarray every time an attack was launched. We cannot afford to concede so many penalty corners like we did against Argentina. If we make the same mistake against Pakistan, then I am sure that Sohail will just hammer the nails on our coffin with his deadly drag flicks.

Adrian is having a great tournament and time and again saving us from getting further disgraced. Gagan seems to be getting back his scoring touch and it will help him in getting back his confidence in the classification matches to come. Against Argentina, we had only 13 available players. It forced some of us had to play throughout the game. I hope that Deepak will be fit for the next game, as his experience will count a lot against the Pakistanis.

I am sure that everyone is waiting for us to play against Pakistan and regain some of the lost grounds. As usual, it will be a highly charged encounter. All we hope is to make the best use of the situation to improve upon our 7th place in the last Olympics. But going by the way we played in the preliminaries, I must admit that it will be a difficult task.

In the last two matches, we lacked in our goal scoring abilities. We were unable to force penalty corners, while we gave away too many. Our appetite for winning was simply not there. We have to be really on our guard against Pakistan. They have a lethal forward line, which can tear apart even the best defence in the world.

Before I end, I would like to make a plea to some of my friends in the media. Please do not write on the negative issues only and stop projecting a wrong picture on my writings about the team strategy. What I wrote was for the betterment of the team, something that I also told the team management.

I was pained to read some of the articles, which talked about some vague disharmony in the team. I reassure you that the morale of the team is high and we have no problems whatsoever with each other. Kindly do not blow up things out of proportion.

It is unfortunate that the team is not playing as well, be it due to wrong strategy or below par performance of the players as a whole. You can be critical of our play but please do not create unnecessary controversies. It is simply uncalled for and I hope you will understand the seriousness of the whole issue.

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Dhanraj Pillay