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We messed up everything from day one

By Dhanraj Pillay
August 27, 2004 01:07 IST
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Dear readers, I am an emotionally drained man at the moment. The defeat against Pakistan, which dashed our last chance of qualifying for the Champions Trophy, has left me devastated.

As I sit down to write my column, I just cannot explain why we had to struggle right through in this manner. Hundred and one excuses can be offered for our lacklustre performance, but to me, at the end of the day, we were just not good enough.

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Before the start of the match I told the boys that if we can beat Pakistan and qualify for the Champions Trophy, then we would still go back with some dignity. They were all geared up and looking forward to regain some of our wounded pride.

But, alas, that was not to be. After having played well to contain the Pakistanis in the first half, we played badly in the second session and conceded unnecessary goals. If not for some intelligent play by Adrian and Dilip again, we perhaps would have suffered defeat by a heavier margin.

While our defence played badly throughout the Olympics, questions can also be asked about what exactly happened to our so-called renowned forward line? We failed miserably to get goals and convert the chances that came our way. Hockey is all about converting half chances and to be at the right place at the right time. A forward can play badly throughout the game, but if he puts in the two chances that came his way, then all his other mistakes will be forgotten by everyone around.

Let's not talk about luck and bad umpiring. No doubt these were contributory factors, but we have to blame ourselves for failing to grab chances. In a nutshell, each of us failed miserably. Our poor performance in the last three matches was mainly due to our players' inability to live up to their reputations. It had nothing to do with the strategy of the team.

In the final assessment, I can say we just messed up everything from day one. Nothing was going right for Indian hockey. It would be worthwhile now that we all sit down and do a proper analysis of what went wrong in Athens. I hope all the relevant inputs would be obtained, including that of the players so that they can rectify their mistakes.

For me, this was the last Olympics, but Team India will play many more Olympics to come. This is the reason why I feel that an appraisal of our performance is absolutely necessary. We have to hit the drawing boards again if we want to do better in the 2006 World Cup.

Tomorrow we play Korea for the 7th place play-off. In the last Olympics, we finished seventh and hope not to fare any worse. Korea is a gritty and hard running side and have a never-say-die attitude. Their pride is at stake too as they were the runners-up in the last Olympics and now have been reduced to play for the 7/8th positions.

What can I say, except that we will once again try to do our best.  As far as I am concerned, I can say that I play every match for India with lot of emotion and feelings. Like anyone else, I too don't like to lose. So, we will simply fight it out.

As for the final, I have all the praises for Holland, who played consistent hockey and made the challenge round without losing a match. Spain too had a convincing tournament as they beat Pakistan 4-0. But they lost to Australia rather badly in the semi-finals. So both the teams from Pool B managed to make the cut for the final.

Hockey in Olympics this time was full of surprises and unexpected performances. I am sure the final between Australia and Holland will be a thrilling one and both the teams will play fast, and with counter-attacks.

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Dhanraj Pillay