India sealed a bronze-medal in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup after they beat Great Britain, 4th team in the FIH rank. When it was time, the squad blended into one solid group. Then they defended and attacked with an urgency that sent Great Britain reeling. Barring their poor performance against New Zealand, Michael Nobbs' men played solidly against every other team. They lost three matches in the tournament. Barring one game, the margin of defeat was one goal. So, it is fair to conclude that India played good hockey.
But is this good enough for the Olympics, which is just around the corner? Will they be able to endure European and Australian powerhouses in London with their current style, team and strategy?
We certainly need a more experienced attacking line. Not that the younger crop does not play well. Manpreet Singh, SK Uthappa and Kothjit Singh can set the pitch on fire, but that won’t be enough to hold up against some of the most competitive teams in London. Remember what happened to Germany when they walked into Australia with a surfacing team at the 2010 World Cup.
Being able to convert chances when critical is something that India is still struggling with. Throughout the tournament, they failed to capitalize on penalty corners. They squandered away two short corners in dying minutes of the game against GBR and New Zealand and gave away the ball ever very easily. If the Black Sticks looked good that night, it was because India made them look so with a lacklustre performance.
A far more formidable game against teams like Pakistan, Korea and Malaysia was the need of the hour. With a solid defence and reliable assists upfront, they dominated the three teams. This shows that the speed, skill and agility, which they showed against these teams is a must if they eye a podium finish in London.