Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Update: I was rebuked for using the word unfriendly by one of the coaches and said that the correct word was being professional. One can be professional yet project a friendly outlook. And it is not as if it is the state secrets we are after. Well the parting words were "friendship on line", I live by the sword and am willing to die by the sword is my response.

Perhaps stung by the remarks from the Malaysian Hockey Federation President Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah the other day on the performances of the national players in the ongoing Tun Razak Cup, both the coaches Stephen van Huizen and Tai Beng Hai seem to evade questions regarding the national team.

Currently there are 25 players in the national training squad and the two coaches were given the option of adding another 5 players into the squad by the MHF and NSC. And the Tun Razak Cup was to be used as a platform to identify these five players.

But one could probably get money out from Bank Negara rather then get these two coaches to say something if any player had caught their eye. All one could get out of them was that the are evaluating players and MHF will announce the list.

Either these two have been gagged by MHF or they are just being unfriendly.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Rather then being upset by the statement made by former national skipper and assistant coach Nor Saiful Zaini, MHF President Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah was more disappointed that he had not made use of the proper channels to voice his opinion.

While respecting that Saiful was entitled to his opinion on matters with regards to how he perceived hockey in the country, Tengku Abdullah reminded Saiful that he too was part of the national team set-up for a whole year and could have used that period to correct any shortcomings within the national team.

"Yes I have read the statement made by Saiful and he is entitled to his opinion, which is personal and not reflective of any organisation," said Tengku Abdullah when met after witnessing the Negeri Sembilan and Kuala Lumpur match in Kuantan.

"He was part of the national team and should have corrected things if he felt so strongly about it but what has he done when he had the opportunity.

"Though they are his personal views, I have advocated an open door policy in MHF and be it Saiful or anyone else can bring proposals on how to improve our hockey standards to me directly. I am all ears if the ideas generated can help us boost our hockey standards.

"On the question of development, or rather the lack of it raised by Saiful, let me assure him that we have the plans in place and I shall reveal everything after our Council meeting this Saturday.

"We may not have achieved our desired improvement levels but who is there to deny that we have done well in some areas. I had made it clear that we need time to correct and improve things and we are on the right track."

Monday, March 29, 2010


Not one to mince his words, Malaysian Hockey Federation President Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah was being honest when he said that the performances of the national players in the ongoing Tun Razak Cup was alarming.

Having watched the Kuala Lumpur against Negri Sembilan match at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium, Tengku Abdullah said that he was concerned with the performances of the national players, after this Blogger posed him a question with regards to the lack of international matches for the national team since the World Cup Qualifiers last November in Invercargill.

" Honestly I am not too happy with the performances of the national players," said Tengku Abdullah after witnessing KL, with six national players in their ranks, struggle against a Negri side that fielded mostly veterans with only three national players.

"It is cause for concern as the players seem to be struggling and not playing to their ability. As for the lack of international matches after the qualifiers, this is something that I have told the team to address and I will announce the plans after the Council meeting on Saturday," said Tengku Abdullah.

KL, with six national players in their lineup struggled to stamp their class over Negri, where veterans Suhaimi Ibrahim, Chairil Anwar Abd Aziz and S.Kuhan were in their element throughout the match.

The MHF President was also honest enough to admit that the team will have it tough in the Asian Games to book an automatic spot in the 2012 London Olympics.

"I know that it will be tough and admit that an automatic spot will be difficult to come by," said Tengku Abdullah.

Asked if MHF was going to have a contingency plan, by requesting to host one of the Olympic Qualifiers scheduled for early 2012, Tengku Abdullah was coy about it, preferring to reveal any such plan after the meeting on Saturday.


The MHF President Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah knows more about hockey then some of his officials.

For teams in the Razak Cup had complained about playing matches at the unearthly hour of 3.00pm.

The MHF officials did nothing about it, as usual, and the Tournament Director T. Paramalingam said he had no powers to change the fixtures.

But all that changed on Sunday night at the official dinner and Tengku Mahkota instructed that the matches from Tuesday be scheduled for 4.00pm, 6.00pm and 8.00pm with Division Two to start at 3.30 and 5.30.

Now that was not difficult to do right, all it took was commonsense, but sadly that is lacking these days.

Maybe now TM has to re-look the idea of playing the Razak Cup in a zonal format next year, but we will dwell on this later.

Saturday, March 27, 2010



Kita kelas dunia ketiga - Nor Saiful

TELUK KEMANG - Masalah disiplin serta ketiadaan program pembangunan yang komprehensif di kalangan pemain disifatkan sebagai punca kemerosotan prestasi skuad hoki kebangsaan.

Pendedahan ini dibuat oleh bekas kapten pasukan hoki kebangsaan, Nor Saiful Zaini yang kecewa dengan prestasi hambar skuad hoki kebangsaan ketika ditemui Utusan Malaysia di sini, semalam.

Menurut beliau, skuad hoki kebangsaan masa kini perlu berubah jika ingin meningkatkan standard dan prestasi mereka di peringkat antarabangsa.

''Dari pemerhatian saya, skuad hoki kebangsaan kini boleh dilabelkan sebagai pasukan kelas dunia ketiga berbanding Korea Selatan yang semakin jauh meningkat prestasinya.

''Ini semua berpunca daripada pembangunan dan cara latihan serta asuhan yang diberikan kepada pemain-pemain baru masa kini selain masalah disiplin yang menghantui pemain," katanya ketika ditemui di Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan (SRK) Kg. Gelam di sini.

Jelasnya, disiplin pemain kebangsaan yang kian longgar masa kini secara tidak langsung menyebabkan mereka boleh dianggap pemain yang hebat di tanah air, tetapi bukan di peringat antarabangsa.

''Mereka (pemain kebangsaan) boleh dianggap hebat di kalangan pemain tempatan tetapi bukan jenis pemain yang boleh memberikan saingan di peringkat antarabangsa," tegasnya.

Saiful yang juga merupakan ketua jurulatih skuad hoki Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) menjelaskan, perubahan drastik perlu dilakukan segera demi membangunkan semula kegemilangan skuad kebangsaan dalam arena sukan hoki.

''Untuk mengatasi masalah ini, saya berpendapat Malaysia perlu mewujudkan program intensif yang khusus dalam membangunkan pelapis bukan sahaja yang berbakat, malah mempunyai disiplin tinggi ke arah melahirkan pemain yang sempurna dari segi mental dan fizikal.

''Kita seharusnya mempunyai satu program khas dalam membangunkan pemain berumur 13 hingga 18 tahun khusus untuk diserapkan ke pasukan kebangsaan," ujarnya.

Diminta mengulas masalah disiplin yang melanda pemain kebangsaan, Saiful memberitahu, disiplin pemain negara jauh ketinggalan jika ingin dibandingkan dengan negara lain.

''Sebagai contoh mudah, saya pernah mengenali seorang pemain hoki Korea yang juga merupakan pemain ketiga terbaik dunia. Namun, dia telah digantung setahun untuk mewakili skuad negaranya ekoran ditangkap merokok.

''Ini menunjukkan betapa ketatnya disiplin pemain luar negara walaupun seseorang itu dianggap sebagai bintang dan hebat. Bukan seperti pemain kita sekotak pun boleh hisap dan masih boleh mewakili negara," katanya dalam nada hampa.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Sometime in February, the National Sports Council Director General Dato Zolkples Embong went on record to say that Malaysian hockey will secure the services of former Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans in May, in time for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

However the Malaysian Hockey Federation opted to keep quiet and the Deputy President Nur Azmi Ahmad started re-writing the script as he told the media that MHF were still in discussions with Oltmans and some other foreign coaches, so in a way he denied the statement made by Zolkples, stopping short of calling the NSC DG a liar.
Moving forward to March, and Nur Azmi was part of the delegation that went to New Delhi for the World Cup to discuss terms with Oltmans. And upon his return Azmi went on record to say that Oltmans will, if the terms are agreed upon, will report for duty on June 1.

Effectively Oltmans, it is learnt, will be in Ipoh during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, expenses paid for by MHF, to witness the tournament and asses the Malaysian team. So there you have it, the script as written by the MHF Deputy President.

Now lets look at things in a different perspective. Oltmans will have barely five months to whip our team into potential gold medalists for the 2010 Asian Games which will assure us of a place in the 2012 London Olympics. Failing which Malaysia would have to go through the qualifiers which most likely will be held in the first quarter of 2012.

Meaning at a rate of RM50,000 per month, Malaysia will have to fork out something in the region of RM1.1 million in terms of salary, minus other perks to have in place a coach who will take us to a qualifier, something others have done in the past.

Another perspective is what will MHF do if the current coaches, Stephen van Huizen and Tai Beng Hai take Malaysia to the champions spot in the Azlan Shah Cup, something Malaysia has failed to do, be it with local or foreign coaches. What will MHF do then? Still get Olmans on board or this time decide that Malaysians are better suited for the job?

The entire planning is in shambles as the national team last played an international match at Invercargill in November last year. That is almost six months without any international match for a team that aspires to win gold in China later this year.

It is not impossible though as Malaysian players can raise their game as evident by the 2002 Busan Asian Games team that went on to win the bronze medal despite many players calling it quits after the 2002 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur.

So the million dollar question, since that is what we could end up coughing should we fail to make it to London, will most likely be answered at the MHF Council Meeting scheduled to be held at 2.00pm on April 3 in Kuala Lumpur.

And after which hopefully the MHF Deputy President will stop his 18 month drama of getting a foreign coach, something he messed up in the first place in Bangkok in December 2008.


Pakistan had almost roped in Paul Lissek to mastermind their hockey team’s turnaround after the World Cup debacle but the multiple bomb blasts in Lahore on March 12 forced the famed German coach to have second thoughts about taking up an assignment in what is a strife-hit country.

Sources told ‘The News’ on Wednesday that the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) had sounded out Lissek during the World Cup held in New Delhi from Feb 28-March 13. According to details, PHF secretary Asif Bajwa met with Lissek on the sidelines of the World Cup, where Pakistan slumped to a catastrophic last-place finish.

Bajwa offered Lissek to head Pakistan’s coaching staff and help the former world champions prepare for several major international events like the Asian Games this year in China and the 2012 Olympics in London.

Lissek, who masterminded Germany’s rise as one of the most successful hockey nations during a stint that lasted for almost a decade, was initially reluctant but later conveyed his willingness to take over as Pakistan’s head coach. This happened just a few days before the March 12 blasts in Lahore that made headlines around the world.

“Lissek started having second thoughts about working in Pakistan after what happened in Lahore,” said the source. “He knew that Lahore is the headquarters of Pakistan hockey and as national coach he will have to stay there a lot,” stressed the source.

However, the source added that Lissek is still mulling over the option and is expected to tell the PHF about his decision on the offer within the next few days.

“Lissek is still very much the favourite to take over as Pakistan’s coach,” said the source. “He has always been keen to be a part of Pakistan hockey and now that he is not attached to any team on a long-term basis, Lissek is seriously considering the PHF offer. He would have said yes after the World Cup but is now having second thoughts because of the security concerns.”

Pakistan have had foreign sports coaches in the past though Geoff Lawson, the former Pakistan coach, was the last one to come and work here. His tenure ended acrimoniously in 2008 when the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) sacked him.

Apart from Lissek, the PHF is also targeting an Australian coach but according to sources he is not as high-profile as the legendary German. Australia’s two most high-profile coaches — Ric Charlesworth and Terry Walsh — are already associated with Australia and USA respectively.

The PHF top brass is interested in Lissek because he is supposed to be the best coach around when it comes to improving a team’s defence. Even Charlesworth was compelled to hire Lissek as his consultant ahead of the World Cup and according to experts his move paid off when the Aussies tamed Germany in the final to regain the world title in the Indian capital earlier this month.

Lissek, known as the ‘mathematician’ in world hockey circles, helped the Aussies unlock the defensive Germans, who had denied them the title in the previous two editions of the World Cup.

He served as Malaysia’s head coach for several years and almost signed a contract to work with India a couple of years back.

Pakistan have to hire a coach as soon as possible as they are without a team management and will need one when the Greenshirts feature in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh (Malaysia) from May 6-16. The PHF sacked the entire team management after the World Cup disaster.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Fresh off their recent 2010 World Cup victory the Kookaburras have already begun preparations for the 2010 Champions Trophy, today naming an 18 player squad for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

Held in Ipoh, Malaysia from 6-16 May the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup will see the Kookaburras take on Korea, Pakistan, China, India, Malaysia and India.

The Kookaburras, who are the number one ranked team in the world following their thrilling 2-1 victory over Germany in the final of the 2010 World Cup, will debut two new players during this tournament. Tasmanian striker Tim Deavin has been picked to play his first international game, as has West Australian Trent Mitton.

A number of other young players including Matt Gohdes, Jason Wilson, Jonathon Charlesworth, Glenn Simpson and Ian Burcher have also been included in the squad, with Kookaburras coach Ric Charlesworth looking forward to adding even more depth to his already talented squad.

”We have purposefully chosen a young squad for this tournament. It will go a long way in exposing our squad to a number of quality teams, giving us even more experience and help add to the depth of our squad,” said Charlesworth.

The younger players will be well balanced by veterans such as Grant Schubert and Kiel Brown who have also been selected for this series.

2010 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup squad
George Bazeley (VIC), Ross Meadows (WA), Chris Ciriello (VIC), Brent Dancer (WA), Joel Carroll (NT), Matthew Swann (QLD), Kiel Brown (WA), Ian Burcher (WA), Glenn Simpson (VIC), Mark Paterson (NSW), Jonathon Charlesworth (WA), Tim Deavin (TAS), Kieran Govers (NSW), Grant Schubert (SA), Jason Wilson (QLD), Russell Ford (VIC), Trent Mitton (WA), Matt Gohdes (QLD)

Friday, March 19, 2010


Former Malaysian coach Paul Lissek, who helped Australia defeat Germany in the World Cup Final, could well be the man who will be entrusted to chart the fortunes of Pakistan. Below is the story from a newspaper in Pakistan and although they have not named the German, this blog is aware of the discussions that have been initiated with Lissek since the Junior World Cup in Johor Baru last June.

The Pakistani officials are believed to have talked to Lissek in New Delhi and since Malaysia has not got back to him for the so-called development [rogram they had in mind, there is a strong possibility that the opening match between Malaysia and Pakistan in the Azlan Shah Cup on May 7 will see the former coaches of the two nations lining up against each other.

But that will only happen if the word of NSC Director General Dato Zolkples Embong is to be believed as he had said Roelant Oltman would start work on May 1 while MHF Deputy President Nur Azmi Ahmad has said that Oltmans reports on June 1.

In the meantime Azmi could do better by sorting out the position as to who is the hed coach of the national team, Stephen van Huizen or Tai Beng Hai, as well as who is the Team Manager for Azlan Shah, George Koshy or Dato SS Cheema.

The story from Dawn newspaper in Pakistan

Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), in a bid to resuscitate the game in the country, is set to hire a foreign coach, physical trainer and sports psychologist, Dawn learnt on Thursday.
“The federation is in discussion with a few foreign coaches and negotiations are underway with a German and Australian coach,” said a source privy to the ongoing developments.

It was under Dutch coach Hans Jorritsma that Pakistan won the 1994 World Cup in Sydney, Australia, while another Dutch man Roelant Oltmans coached Pakistan in 2004 with the green shirts gaining better ranking at the international level during his tenure.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Pakistan’s hockey chiefs are mulling over the option of pulling out of a couple of international tournaments because of growing uncertainty hovering over the sport in the country following the Greenshirts’ last-place finish in the World Cup last week.

Asif Bajwa, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) secretary, told ‘The News’ that there is a possibility that the PHF might withdraw the national team from any upcoming international tournaments because of the prevailing situation in Pakistan hockey.

“Currently, we don’t have any team management, national selectors while our players have decided to retire because of what happened in the World Cup,” said Bajwa, who was sacked as the team manager and is now under pressure from various quarters to resign as PHF secretary as well because of his team’s catastrophic World Cup campaign.

“That is why it is a possibility that we might pull out of any international event in the near future,” he added.

However, Bajwa said that the final decision on it will be taken by the PHF think-tank that will be meeting within the next few days.

“I will be meeting with the PHF president (Qasim Zia) tomorrow (Wednesday) to discuss the situation,” he said. “Our think-tank will also be meeting soon after which we would decide about our future plans,” said Bajwa, a former Olympian.

Pakistan were almost certain to pull their team out of the inaugural Asian Champions Challenge which was supposed to take place in the Malaysian city of Ipoh next month. However, the tournament has been postponed because some of the competing teams including Asian champions Korea were reluctant to feature in it just weeks after the World Cup.

Pakistan’s next international assignment is the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup — also to be held in Ipoh — in May but there is a possibility that the PHF might opt to pull its team out of the event.

Bajwa said that the PHF’s executive board will be meeting soon to chalk out steps to help the national team bounce back after the World Cup debacle.

Pakistan, record four-time champions, stumbled to a disastrous 12th position in the World Cup following defeats against old rivals India, England, Australia and minnows South Africa and Canada.

The national team’s embarrassingly poor showing in Delhi has thrown Pakistan hockey into a major turmoil during a year when they are to launch a campaign to regain the Asian Games crown in China this November.

Pakistan are also supposed to feature in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October.

“We are passing through a tough phase but hopefully Pakistan hockey will bounce back,” said Bajwa.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


In the latest FIH Rankings released on March 15, Malaysia moved up a rung from 15th to 14th, ahead of China and Japan.

Malaysia benefitted from making the final of the World Cup Qualifiers at Invercargill to move up the ladder but this is still a long way off from the top 8 as targetted by MHF President Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah.
As expected the Australians now occupy top spot in the World Rankings.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


India's final position is in the 7-8 bracket at the 12th men's Hockey World Cup. Ultimately, the fracas over a denied goal and consequent victory against South Africa last night did not impact India's standings in the pool, although Pakistan would have avoided playing for the 11-12 slots. 

Yet again, the Indians suffered due to some shockingly poor supervision by the on-field umpires who brought disgrace to their fraternity and the sport by allowing a referral for a penalty corner by South Africa after India scored a goal on the counter-attack. The Indian goal was disallowed and the Proteas converted the penalty corner that was awarded following the referral!

It was akin to travelling back in time and the umpiring decisions were certainly unprecedented and ridiculous. At the end of it all, the FIH had egg on its face and more questions than answers on the referral system that needs to be refined.

Thus, the Indians came away with a draw instead of a win. Not that a victory would have made a huge difference to India's fortunes as in any case, they were out of the top six by the time they took the field against South Africa.

Coach Jose Brasa can justifiably feel relieved, if not happy, that he dragged the team out of the morass and gave it some respectability after the nonsensical events in the past couple of years as also in the recent weeks, all but sounded the death knell for the game in India.

A seventh or eighth place finish, on the face of it, might appear an 'improvement' as compared to the ninth, 10th and 11th in the three previous editions, but the fact remains that Indian hockey has some way to go to even get among the top six. It is a task that is not beyond it provided of course the Augean stables are cleaned. Only, at the moment, there is no Hercules in sight.

On the pitch, it is clearly evident that the majority of the current Indian players have outlived their utility. Even a Charlesworth or an Oltmans or a Hendricks will not be any more successful than Brasa with the Indian side in its present state. Rather, India would be better off with a foreign coach attached to a sub-junior bunch that he can develop over a four or eight-year period. This has been said before, but bears repetition.

Against South Africa, for instance, the senior players did not show much of leadership and appeared far too anxious. Haste led to mistakes and barring a few flashes of brilliance, the team played no better than it had in the previous games. The umpiring blunders added to India's misery.

It was imperative that India at least qualified for the Champions Trophy as it would have provided an opportunity to measure themselves against the best in world hockey. As Brasa rightly pointed out, it is of more relevance to constantly play against the top teams rather than undertaking inconsequential tours to say Canada or Argentina or Malaysia. Rather, Europe is the place to play.

But then, Indian hockey administrators are not known for such meticulous planning and vision. There is a lot of hard work ahead for Indian hockey and of more importance is to be patient, for success cannot be achieved overnight. It is debatable whether country's administrators are willing for the long haul, for the journey has only just begun.

(Anand Philar can be contacted at 


Brasa's tactics not working with India

India's Spanish coach is forcing a system on us without taking into consideration the merit and caliber of our players.

By Pargat Singh

When each player in the team commits at least five blunders each, the result is expected. Against Spain on Thursday night, India played their worst hockey of the World Cup. It once again exposed a weak system and underlined the fact that Jose Brasa cannot produce miracles in less than a year's time.

I will like to narrate a story before I proceed. In 1994-95, the well-known Aussie Terry Walsh became the coach of the Malaysian national side. I was playing in the Malaysian national league that year and decided to see one of the training sessions just before the Azlan Shah Cup. After watching the Malaysian team train, I told Terry over dinner that he would lose most games with his approach. He naturally rubbished my thoughts.

Malaysia lost their first match against Russia 7-1. Off all teams, Russia! Four Russian goals were scored with no Malaysian defender in sight in the 25-yard zone. It boiled down to a one-to-one with the Malaysian goalie and a Russian attacker. Walsh called me over for dinner again saying the press was after his head. It did not need great intelligence to say what went wrong.

Walsh tried to employ the Australian method of playing hockey in Malaysia. It is a cardinal sin to play a system without gauging the strengths and weaknesses of the players you have at your disposal. The Australians are an aggressive race. They are powerful, speedy and skillful. The Malaysians are a softer lot. Their psyche is very different. Walsh understood what I meant and told the press he needed at least a full year to make an impression!

Brasa obviously doesn't have the magic wand. It is silly to talk about his gameplans because it is turning out to be the Walsh-Malaysia case for the Spanish coach. At least, the World Cup is turning out to be a lesson for him. By the end of this tournament, he will know the caliber of the boys and then plan ahead. All I want to tell him is that do not employ a system without judging the caliber of the team.

India's man-to-man plan failed horribly against Spain. The defence was in tatters and the first goal that Sreejesh conceded was a big mistake. He failed to cover the angle and that is unpardonable for a goalie standing in a World Cup match. India's game was a hodge-podge. There was no design and Sandeep Singh was a huge disappointment in defence. For a man who has played so many international games, his defending style looks awry. How can a deep defender stop an attacker standing with both feet parallel? Once beaten, there is very little chance of recovery.

India's penalty corner conversion style was a mess. You either hit low shots on the sides or flick the ball on top of the net. Sandeep scored when he pushed low. India wasted at least three opportunities by pushing at the waist height. It was all too easy for the Spanish goalkeeper.

There was nothing exceptional about Spanish methods. They played a game on expected lines: quick release, long ball and precision passes. They had one good striker upfront and that was skipper Pol Amat. India just could not mark him well.

The position in group B is increasingly becoming clearer. Barring miracles, England and Australia should progress to the semifinals and they deserve to do so. England have looked the most improved side in the tournament. From group A, The Netherlands look the best unit. The second spot is a toss up between Germany and South Korea.

I am surprised to see this Pakistani team. They have always done well in World Cup and this time it has been an exception. Few players just don't look like Pakistanis. Their body language is weak and Pakistan have just not arrived in this championship!

Monday, March 8, 2010


North Harbour striker Priyesh Bhana is loving every minute of this World Cup. It's his second time playing in the land of his forefathers, a country where hockey battles with cricket as the most popular sport.

Given his Indian roots, Bhana, 25, has been singled out for added attention by supporters and local media. He relishes that and also being able to share the occasion with his family.

He can count on more of that support when he runs out tomorrow morning for the Black Sticks' last pool match against defending champions Germany, knowing they must win to have any chance of progressing after losing to Argentina, the lowest-ranked team, 1-0 yesterday.

Bhana's grandparents were born in India and lived a couple of hours south of Mumbai before they immigrated to New Zealand almost a century ago.

"My dad was born in New Zealand and my mum in Zambia. They got married in England and I was born in Hawera," said Bhana who also speaks Gujarati, his grandmother's native tongue. "Now my brother lives in Melbourne, but they are all here now. That is special."

Just as special as making his Black Sticks debut against India at last year's Punjab Gold Cup in Chandigarh, where New Zealand lost 2-0 in that opening game, but went on to beat Germany 3-2 in their last game of the tournament.

Bhana, "Pee Wee" to his hockey mates, might not possess the scoring skills of the likes of Simon Child and Phil Burrows, but makes up for that with his pace.

Playing on hockey's biggest stage is a world apart from his first days as a 4-year-old when, stick in hand, he played in the backyard of the family's Hawera home.

"Dad played soccer for Taranaki, but he never pushed me to follow him," said Bhana, who went on to captain the Hawera High School 1st XI for three years, leading them to three successive Taranaki secondary school titles.

Like other players, including another Taranaki product and Black Sticks teammate Ben Collier, Bhana was coerced into moving north by then East Coast Bays player-coach, and now Black Sticks assistant coach Darren Smith to play in the North Harbour competition.

"I was studying at Massey University in Palmerston North so thought why not," said Bhana, who has completed his Bachelor of Science and is now, with a Prime Minister's Scholarship, continuing his studies.

He played professionally in Belgium in 2008-09 and has had offers to return. "I will probably go back after the Commonwealth Games, but will eventually finish up back in New Zealand."


Aborigines are making rapid progress in Australian sports. Desmond Abbott, is one such indigenous Australian, who has not only found a place for himself in the national team but have also grown to become one of the deadliest strikers in the world hockey.

The 23-year-old from Darwin in Northern Territory, came into the spotlight in the Beijing Olympics, with the bronze winning Kookaburas. Abbott turned out to be a revelation in Beijing and scored six goals in the tournament, including a hat-trick on debut.

In the ongoing World Cup, Abbott has live up to his reputation and has been the pivotal force in Australia’s attack.

Abbott feels that he made the right choice by shifting to hockey from rules football. He was a promising Australian footballer and was also identified by AFL talent scouts in his teens, but chose hockey to the more-travelled route to sporting glory. He moved to Perth in 2005 and within two years made his international debut. And 12 months later he was toast of the Kookaburras at Beijing.

"I was decent at rules football. I was good at kicking and marking, but somehow fell in love with hockey. If I had opted for footy, I would have to wait for 18 years before making it to the big league. But with hockey, I was noticed at the age of 15 or 16. I personally feel that hockey is faster and it requires more skill and is also good to watch,” Abbott told

For Abbott, playing in the Beijing Games early on in his career was a first big step.

“It was a great achievement for me. It was my first biggest tournament and I feel I did well. Six goals in an Olympics was no mean feat for me,” said Abbott.

However, after, the Olympics he had moved on to Amsterdam to play in the Dutch league, which is considered as the nursery of top players.

“The Dutch league is the place where all the top players play. It is like a university in hockey. It is surely helping me to develop as a better player,” he said.

Chief coach Ric Charlesworth sees a great future for Abbott, but has a piece of advice for the youngster.

“Des will be crucial in the team for the 2012 Olympics in London. He is a strong player and very skillful. But he is prone to injuries. It would be interesting to see how he matures and takes care of his injuries,” he said.


Players in the India team stepped out onto the pitch at the World Cup in Delhi on Saturday with the logo of construction materials company Shree Cement emblazoned on their sticks, in a move that seems to conflict with the team's sponsorship deal with conglomerate Sahara India.

Asian Sponsorship News reports that Shree Cement had announced a sponsorship deal with the team on Friday, which Hockey India representatives later said they were unaware of. Sahara India is the main sponsor of the team under a deal announced last year, and its rights include branding on team uniforms and equipment.

The International Hockey Federation said the team could not display the brand of any company not recognised by Hockey India.

All sponsors' eyes will be on the sticks used by the India players at their next match, against South Africa tonight at 8:35pm local time.

Friday, March 5, 2010


If you thought video referrals were turning out to be a tactician's tool to upset the rhythm of an opponent team, think again. These days, penalty corners are veritable road blocks to the game's flow, what with teams allowing precious seconds to tick away as they prepare for those critical moments under the bar.

Penalty corners at the Hero Honda hockey World Cup have been relatively long-drawn affairs, with players from the defending teams taking anywhere between 35 to 45 seconds to wear their protective gears and taking their positions on the goalline.

These are definitely anxious moments for the attacking team but somehow, the practice has been persisted with. The umpires too have generally turned a blind eye towards the delay, with perhaps one or two of them caring to hurry the defending team into action.

With penalty corners being the hub of activity these days and many teams dependent on the setpiece for their goals, it is clear that the ultra-slow ways of the players have more to do with throwing the opposing team off its stride than meticulously preparing themselves against danger.

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) have been keenly watching the new development and are planning measures to get the teams back to prompter ways. "For one, we don't understand why the umpires do not apply the time-out rule every time," FIH president Leandro Negre told TOI. "They allow a penalty corner without time-outs in the beginning of the game but towards the end, they begin using it. There has to be some consistency."

Having said that, Negre feels it is time the FIH took some proactive steps. "We have been noticing it for quite some time, including the Champions Trophy in Melbourne. This matter has to be attended to."

One solution that is doing the rounds is the time-out. But then, to instill some sense of discipline in the teams, the FIH feels that it ought to stipulate the number of seconds needed to prepare for a penalty corner. Any team (defending) flouting the norm will face a stringent punishment. A penalty stroke, maybe?

Negre refused to be drawn into the argument."We haven't thought of doubling the penalty yet. We may have cards too to warn them. We have a rule in penalty corners which state that any defender overstepping the line before the pusher releases the ball will be removed from the scene. We can improvise on that."

But then, Negre was quick to add that they were his thoughts. The competitions committee is at work. "We need to consult experts on this matter. At the same time, we need to introduce the rules as soon as possible. Maybe, this year's Champions Trophy in Monchengladbach will even have tournament regulations."


There is no denying that international hockey will be incomplete without India and Pakistan.

However, according to International Hockey Federation (FIH) coaching manager Tayyab Ikram, both the countries cannot rise to the top unless they get rid of the ad-hocism and adopt a structured approach.

Ikram, the secretary of the High Performance Department and a Coaching Director of FIH, said the two nations “must stop dreaming” and deal with ground realities to strengthen the roots of the sport.

“We have to adopt a different approach for India because people here are hungry for hockey. But potential, talent and participation-wise, it is not reflecting in the world rankings,” Ikram said here on Thursday.

Ikram, nevertheless, thinks that India should not mindlessly ape the training methods of successful European countries. “A player comes through a certain system. We cannot overload his mind with so many things. We got to create a balance,” he said.

The man with three decades of coaching experience stressed on the thinking aspect of the game and said the Indian players could learn a few things from the Europeans. “They (the Europeans) are better decision makers, so they know better management,” he said.

Ikram, who originally belonged to Lahore (Pakistan), said hockey must make improvements in terms of quality.

“The education system (in hockey) must be updated. India can take the high-performance package and introduce it….Hockey India (HI), the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Sports Ministry must think how many hours of quality coaching they are giving (to the players),” he said.

The FIH Master Coach is here to conduct a coaches' course on the sidelines of the World Cup. Altogether 46 coaches from 25 countries are participating in the programme.

The participants: Rimoldi Jorgelina (Arg), Elizabeth Ljeoma (Nig), Solomon Casoojee (Aus), James Young (Aus/Lit), Berandai Dadong (Bru), Tjerk van Herwaarden (USA), Ronald Stein Leon (Chile), Kim Changback (Chn), Hany Hamouda, Hisham Hamouda (Egy), Hector Rocky Smith (Fij), Philip Fernandes (Guy), Jamilon Mulders, Jens Lueninghoener (Ger), Akbar Ali, Arif Ali (HK), Somesh H. Sandeep, Sabu Varkey, Y.S. Chauhan, Inderjit Singh Gill, K. Singh Ripudaman, Mukul Pandey, P.V. Patel, Ajay Kumar Bansal (Ind), Christine Bartley, Michelle Holt (Jam), Siegfried Aikman, Akira Takahashi (Jpn), Seung-Jin Yoo (Kor), Tai Beng Hai, Dharma Raj Kanniah, Vivekanandan Ramaiah (Mas), Robert Hantjes, Eric Caspar Verboom (Netherlands), Nedeem Bhatti, Mohd. Junaid Khawaja (Pak), Russell Garcia (Sco), Michael Kinnen (Bel), Juan Manuel Mas Oritz (Sin), Adrian Carolan (SA), Rohan Dissanayake, Leelananda Ittapanaga (SL), Sameer Hussain Syed (Tha), Mohd. Abdullah Al Batrani (Omn), Kwandwane Browne, Anthony Marcano (Tri).


Pakistan captain Zeeshan Ashraf demanded action against some English players who, he alleged, resorted to intentional foul play in the Pool B match of the hockey World Cup on Thursday.

Zeeshan said one England player intentionally fouled Irfan Muhammad in the second half but he went scot-free.

"Irfan was hit by an England player and it was intentional. Just like Shivendra Singh was banned, the tournament director should see the match video footage and he (the English player) should be suspended," said Zeeshan after his side lost 2-5 in their third Pool B match.

Zeeshan, however, did not say that Pakistan would lodge a complaint to the tournament director.

Striker Rehan Butt also said that the England players committed some intentional fouls and the tournament directors should take note of that.

"The tournament director should take action as there was intentional fouls (by England players) after seeing the video footage just like had been done in case of Shivendra," the star striker said.

Zeeshan conceded that some individual mistakes also cost the team dear besides the two yellow cards they got in the second session after they restored parity from 0-2 down at the breather.

"England played well in the first half. We came back strongly in the second half by scoring two goals but the two yellow cards slowed down the tempo of our comeback

"Moreover we made mistakes in the second session. Though it will be difficult to make it to the semifinals but it is not over for us. We would look to win the last two matches and see what happens," he said.

Asked about poor performance of star drag-flicker Sohail Abbas and striker Rehan Butt, Zeeshan said, "Sohail could not score from two penalty corners and we think England goalkeeper had come prepared. Rehan though was off-colour today."

Rehan Butt agreed that the third goal by England was due to the mistake of goalkeeper Salman Akbar.

"We had some individual mistakes and that contributed to our loss. Salman had a mistake and that led to the third goal. But it is part of the game," said Rehan.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


By Anand Philar

Tournament Director Ken Read’s rather officious justification of Shivendra Singh’s three-match suspension (reduced to two following appeal by India) in the ongoing Hockey World Cup might sound plausible, but the punishment exceeds the crime. If anything, it smacks of FIH making an example of a country whose hockey administrators have rarely shown the spunk to stand up and be counted.

From that infamous day in Dhaka 25 years ago, when six Indian players were suspended following the fracas in the Asia Cup final against Pakistan, our national team has always been under the scanner. The international umpiring community generally views the Asian style of play with some suspicion and it is given that they are instructed to keep a “close watch” on the sub-continental players especially in close tackles, like the one that Shivendra was involved in.

Shivendra’s back swipe after the ball was well in the clear is a typical instinctive reaction of an Indian player to tackles from behind and is never intentional. It is a fairly common sight in domestic hockey where umpires tend to be rather lenient and not always strictly apply the latest interpretations. Thus, when the Indian teams play international tournaments, the old habits surface and are heavily penalised.

In the present instance, a two-match suspension defies logic. The on-field umpires missed the incident that at best merited a warning. The point is that Read’s perception of the level of offence (”reckless behaviour”) is open to question.

Read’s justification of slapping the ban — although Pakistan did not lodge any official protest — reflects a man who is a law unto himself. He held a similar position in the 2006 World Cup where two of Australia’s goals from penalty corner in the semi-final against South Korea were illegal as the ball was stopped inside the circle. Umpire Christian Blasch of Germany allowed the goals.

The TV replays left no room for doubt. Australia went on to win 4-2. The Koreans were rather slow in lodging a protest as by then their bench had signed the score-sheet.

One wonders whether Read thought of looking at the replays and pulling up the two on-field umpires (Blasch and Henrik Ehlers of Denmark). Rather, Ehlers was “rewarded” with a posting for the final where Germany beat Australia.

Earlier in the tournament, Read and the entire FIH top brass, including its then president, Els van Breda Vriesman of the Netherlands, witnessed the disgraceful fixed match between Germany and South Korea who played out a farcical goalless draw that eliminated the Dutch from the medal rounds. No action was taken, not even a token censure. The Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans fretted and fumed but did not lodge an official protest.

Rewind to the 1996 Olympic qualifier in Barcelona when Malaysia and India were involved in a fixed match, again a goalless draw that denied Canada a spot in the Atlanta Games later that year. The FIH reacted swiftly and launched an investigation into the sordid episode following Canada’s protest.

The outbursts of Indian team coach Cedric D’Souza against some of his own players who had secretly connived with the Malaysians, provided fresh fodder to FIH. Nothing came out of it since neither India nor Malaysia was guilty of breach of rule, but both lost face and credibility.

The two incidents reflect the double standards that the FIH is known for in dealing with acts of misconduct. If Read believes that investigation and subsequent punitive action are independent on protest from the aggrieved party, then the FIH should have acted in 2006. That it did not only strengthens the belief that there are different yardsticks to judge an act of misconduct.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Malaysia will open their campaign in the 19th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Tournament with a match against Pakistan on May 6.

And ironically the coach of the Malaysian team could well be the ex-coach of the green shirts, Roelant Oltmans who is due to take charge of the Malaysian team on May 1.

The Dutchman will come under close scrutiny as he plots the progress of the Malaysian team as 24 hours later it will be South Korea whom they will face at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh.

The second day will also see a repeat of the opening day clash between traditional Asian giants, India and Pakistan. India whipped Pakistan 4-1 in their clash in the ongoing World Cup in New Delhi.

The seven teams that have confirmed participation are Australia, South Korea, Pakistan, China, India, Egypt and Malaysia.


Thursday, May 6
1605 - South Korea v Egypt
1805 - China v India
2005 - Pakistan v Malaysia

Friday, May 7
1605 - Austraia v Egypt
1805 - Pakistan v India
2005 - South Korea v Malaysia

Saturday, May 8 - Rest Day

Sunday, May 9
1605 - South Korea v India
1805 - Pakistan v China
2005 - Australia v Malaysia

Monday, May 10
1605 - South Korea v China
1805 - Australia v India
2005 - Malaysia v Egypt

Tuesday, May 11 - Rest Day

Wednesday, May 12
1605 - Australia v Pakistan
1805 - China v Egypt
2005 - India v Malaysia

Thursday, May 13
1605 - Pakistan v Egypt
1805 - Australia v South Korea
2005 - China v Malaysia

Friday, May 14 - Rest Day

Saturday, May 15
1605 - Australia v China
1805 - South Korea v Pakistan
2005 - India v Egypt

Sunday, May 16
1605 - 5/6th Placing
1805 - 3/4th Placing
2035 - Final


Pakistan are back in contention for a semi-final slot after their hard-fought win against Spain, but they have their task cut out as they take on European champions England in a Pool B encounter of the Hockey World Cup on Thursday.

Pakistan left behind the disappointment of a 1-4 loss to India on Sunday to regroup and carve out a 2-1 win over Spain with a determined effort that also saw the sub-continental side cutting down on their traditional flair at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

Pakistan were well served by their forward Shakeel Abbasi whose searing runs down the right flank helped split open the Spanish defence and the team management would be hoping for a repeat performance from the 26-year-old against England who lead the six-team Pool B with six points after winning both their opening games.

After two games, Pakistan are on three points, same as India, Spain and Australia, and the two semi-final berths from the pool are up for grabs.

The Pakistan midfield led by Waseem Ahmed also put up a good show in blunting the Spanish attacks besides keeping the feederline active for the forwards and it would be interesting to see the strategy of England coach Jason Lee to contain them.

Sesasoned striker Rehan Butt is another player who came into his own against Spain after being bottled up by the Indians, but he will have his hands full against the solid England defence.

The two sides met in the classification match of the 2006 World Cup in the German city of Monchengladbach, with England finishing fifth following a 1-0 win.

Head-to-head, England have won three of the seven World Cup games against Pakistan and lost two.

England have had a fairy-tale start to their campaign shocking pre-tournament favourites Australia 3-2 in their opener, before prevailing over South Africa 6-4 Tuesday in the competition's 500th outing.

But as England captain Barry Middleton admitted, his side's performance against South Africa was far less convincing than their first match against Australia.

Australia have what seems to be a relatively easy game against South Africa, arguably the most inexperienced team in the pool, but they need to guard against complancency.

Only the third side from the African continent to play the big event after Kenya and Ghana, the South Africans have lost both their games, though they did throw some challenge against both Spain and England.

The Kookaburras badly mauled India 5-2 to signal they were back in their element after the upset against England and their speed and verve could prove too good for their rivals Thursday.


It was not surprising that India stood exposed during their 2-5 rout against Australia in the men's Hockey World Cup on Tuesday night.

The lack of exposure against the top teams in the past year highlighted many inherent weaknesses in the Indian team that were covered up by their 4-1 success against a mediocre Pakistan on the opening night.

Expectedly, the Indians were cramped for want of space due to some close marking by the Aussies who then used their superior fitness to set a scorching pace and maintained it through the 70 minutes to overrun their opponents.

Tuesday night, the Indians did not do anything different from the Pakistan game. It was attack from the start and they tried to keep pace with the Aussies. It was not long before they ran out of steam. Two goals down by the seventh minute proved knockout punches. Despite the fight Indians put up to score twice, the damage was irreparable.

In the past, rarely have Indian teams shown the special ability to raise their game. One can think of the 4-1 drubbing they handed out to the Netherlands in the 1996 Olympic qualifier in Barcelona. The Dutch went on to win the gold medal at the Atlanta Games a few months later!

That has been one of the standout performances by an Indian team, apart from their showing in the 2003 Champions Trophy in Amstelveen when they led 3-0 with seven minutes left only to lose 3-4 to the Dutch in a rip-roaring game that ended in controversy.

Apart from the two instances, Indian teams have always struggled against opponents who used pace and first-time passes like the Aussies did Tuesday night. Part of India's problems lie in slow recovery and mobility, especially in the defence where players tend to remain static while ball watching rather than covering their rivals.

The Australians thrive on a solid start, and conceding an early goal to them is inviting disaster. Once they get into the flow, the Aussies can overrun any team. Indians would be better off watching the tapes of 2002 and 2006 World Cup finals where Germany out-thought Australia who until then had looked the best team in the tournament.

The German ploy of keeping possession and stifling the Aussies in the midfield fetched them the desired results, especially in 2002 when barely 48 hours earlier Australia had flattened the Dutch 4-1 in one of the most spectacular displays of attacking hockey ever seen in the World Cup.

But then, it is far too much to expect Indians to keep possession through clever ball rotation for long periods as their attacking instincts eventually take over. Back in 1994, coach Cedric D'Souza drilled it into the players to keep possession on the simple theory that the opponent can only score if he has the ball. The team finished a creditable fifth.

Old habits die hard -- or in the case of Indian hockey, they never do. Tactics and strategies require a high level of thinking besides patience and discipline to execute. A succession of coaches have tried and failed in the past. It remains to be seen whether Jose Brasa would be any more effective in implementing his ideas.

There is still far too much of individualism in the national team. Such skills more often than win applause but not the match, as was the case in the 1986 World Cup where Mohd Shahid, India's latter-day Dhyan Chand, was rendered ineffective as he was repeatedly boxed in by a ring of defenders who let him showcase his stick-work but denied movement.

At the moment, all is not lost for India, but the going will get tougher against opponents who would have settled down and revised their targets based on the results. The onus will be on India to up the ante and level of play. If the time has come to deliver, then this is it. There is no place to hide.


Apart from years of hard work and dedication, what has made star drag-flicker Taeke Taekema an inseparable part of the respected Netherlands team is his priority of team over self.

Playing his third World Cup in a row, Taekema is just one goal away from equalling the record of his predecessor and famous Dutch penalty corner exponent of yesteryear, Floris Jan Bovelander, who is fourth in the list of top scorers with 17 goals in the World Cup.

However, the 30-year-old Taekema is not very excited about such records.

“Hockey is a team sport. There is no personal goal in hockey. If I was interested in personal achievements, I would have played tennis or golf,” said Taekema, after his hat-trick helped Netherlands beat Argentina in its first match of the ongoing World Cup. Incidentally, Taekema's was the 50th hat-trick in the tournament.

Notwithstanding his achievements of four Champions Trophy gold medals, an Olympic silver, a World Cup bronze, a European championship gold and the experience of 209 international matches, Taekema is a picture of humility.

He still misses the World champion tag and is keen to win the top honour for the Dutch after a gap of 12 years. “The main thing is to become the World champion. Our aim is to win the final. In the World Cup, there will not be easy games,” he said.

In a sport that does not usually project individuals, Taekema is famous for his bullet-like penalty corner hits.

“It has come through years of practice and fine-tuning of technique. It is very hard to achieve that technique, it has taken 15-16 years. It is all about rhythm and cannot be explained,” Taekema said.

The Dutchman, known for his fierce competitiveness on the field, rates other specialists of his trade — Pakistan's Sohail Abbas and India's Sandeep Singh — highly.

“The fact that Sohail is the top goal-scorer in the world tells us about his abilities. Sandeep is also a good drag-flicker,” Taekema said with genuine appreciation.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


A nervy Pakistan put behind their defeat against arch-rivals India to eke out a narrow 2-1 win against Spain in a hard-fought Pool B encounter of the hockey World Cup here on Tuesday.

A defeat today would have virtually shut the semi-final door on Pakistan after their 1-4 defeat against India but Abdul Haseem Khan (30th minute, 70th) sounded the board twice to see them through.

David Alegre scored the lone goal for Spain in the 67th minute.

As expected, the match started on a fast pace with Pakistan going for the attack right at the beginning.

As early as in the ninth minute of the game, Pakistan got a great opportunity to go ahead but Waseem Ahmed’s shot, after dodging some Spanish defenders in side the D, was saved by goalkeeper Francisco Cortes.

But Spain seemed in no mood to sit back and got their first scoring opportunity in the next minute.

A quick through ball from captain Pol Amat found Rodrigo Garza right in front of goal, but his shot was cleared by Pakistan custodian Salman Akbar.

Pakistan’s experienced centre forward Rehan Butt also wasted an opportunity in the 11th minute as he failed to touch the ball with only the Spanish goalkeeper to beat.


European champions England registered their second straight victory in the hockey World Cup on Tuesday, defeating a lowly South Africa 6-4 in a high-scoring second Pool B match at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

For England, Richard Mantell (15th minute, 57th), Robert Moore (23rd), Ashley Jackson (43rd), Nick Catlin (50th) and Iain Mackay (51st) were the goal getters, while Marvin Harper (10th, 53rd), Lloyd Norris-Jones (25th) and Thornton Mcdade (67th) registered their names in the score sheet for South Africa.

The first half witnessed an exciting contest between the two teams with playing clean hockey and using short passes to great effect.

England, however, was the more dominant side after the change of ends as they earned penalty corners at will and pumped in four goals to inflict on South Africa their second defeat on the trot.

South Africa, however, were the first to sound the board in the 10th minute of the match through Harper after Justin Reid-Ross had set up the goal with a great solo run down the baseline.

England equalised five minutes later through Mantell, who converted his side's first penalty corner with aplomb.

England then doubled their lead in the 23rd minute, courtesy a lapse in concentration from South Africa skipper Austin Smith, who gave away the possession to Moore and the English forward made no mistake in hammering the ball home.

But the lead was short-lived as Norris-Jones drew parity two minutes later with a fierce shot from the right corner that beat England goalkeeper James Fair all ends up to go into the breather tied at 2-2.

But it was all England in the first 15 minutes of the second half as they applied continuous pressure on the Protea goal.

Their efforts resulted in goal in the 43rd minute through Jackson, who scored from a brilliant counterattack and then seven minutes later Catalin chipped the ball over South Africa custodian Erasmus Pieterse to make it 4-2.

A minute later England scored their fifth goal from another quick counterattack through Mackay and then again came to the party, converting with ease their second short corner.

The South Africans did manage to pull two back through Harper and Macdade but it was not enough for the Protea side to ensure their first point in the tournament.

With this victory, England has six points from two outings while South Africa is yet to get their name in the points table.

England will next play Pakistan while South Africa will take on the mighty Australians in their next pool matches on Thursday.


Team referrals made their debut in the hockey World Cup but raised questions about whether they actually helped the spectators at the Dhyan Chand stadium understand the reasons behind the decisions.

Referrals were introduced last year in the Champions Trophy to help in deciding on matters pertaining to decisions within the 23-metre area, including penalty corners, penalty strokes and awarding of goals.

Each team is given one opportunity to appeal against the on-field decision, with every successful referral allowing them the chance to retain the prerogative.

South Africa appealed twice in their match against Spain once against a goal and the other to find out whether a penalty corner decision was right or not. England too wanted the third umpire to intervene on a few penalty corners while Australia too turned to the electronic eye for the final word after the umpire turned down their request for a similar award.

Besides breaking the game into fragments and, perhaps, increasing the curiosity among a packed crowd, the referrals managed little else. It might have made sense to those who were either close to the action or were knowledgeable enough to know the nuances of the game but for the uninitiated and those seated in the farthest corners of the stadium, it was another of those numerous periods of lull.

The public address system too did not help in mending matters, with the announcement hardly going beyond the known truth that the team had opted for a referral. And, with replays not allowed during the period on the giant screen at the stadium, hockey continued to be a game of mysteries, with only the fast action in between coming as a saving grace.

Olympian Viren Rasquinha felt the referrals ought to have been followed up with proper explanations of why the decisions were either upheld or rejected. "While team referrals are welcome, we need to have the person at the public address system completely clued in to the game," he said.

Contending that such a move would in fact help people understand the sport better, Viren said: "Hockey has seen so many rule changes in the past. With the ball being too small to be followed by the spectators, a simple explanation of what transpired on the pitch will help."

Monday, March 1, 2010


The hockey spectacle sparkles with India's thrilling win against Pakistan in the Hockey World Cup opener.

A million hopes soared as India beat Pakistan in the Hero Honda Hockey World Cup on Sunday. Hockey fans have not stopped celebrating and on Monday, when Hyderabadis celebrated Holi - the festival of colours, the Hockey flavour was hard to miss. ‘Well done India', ‘Raring to go' and ‘Cricket can wait… spotlight is now on hockey' ... hockey fans are expressing their delight with SMSes and status messages. The win assumes special significance as it is against Pakistan and comes at a time when India's national sport has been bogged with controversies.

Ask Vishnu, a standard XII student of Kendriya Uppal and a hockey player for his school team if the win was a pleasant surprise, he replies a big ‘No'. “I was quite thrilled but I was not shocked. I was expecting the win as it is a young team and the advantage of playing on the home ground was always there,” he says elatedly and adds, “When the match ended around 9.15 p.m., a group of us got together and cheered till we were exhausted.”

Vishnu is the defender (right back) of his team and lauds the role of Sandeep Singh in the match. Says he, “The forward line of Pakistan is very strong but Sandeep Singh just stood like a wall defending the team,” The youngster calls Sandeep the ‘Great wall' of hockey. “What Rahul Dravid is for cricket, Sandeep Singh is for hockey.”

M. Rekha a student of Nizam Degree College has a different reason to watch the World Cup Hockey matches. “As budding hockey players we have to watch the matches to understand the strategy applied by the Indian team to tackle opponents,” she says. The Commerce student has not been able to practice much but whenever she gets time, she is at the grounds defending the ball and scoring for her team.

The Hockey World Cup has indeed generated a lot of curiosity among people, especially youngsters but the big question is whether the interest will sustain. “People do not understand hockey so they do not watch it. There is lot of difference between hitting, tapping or dragging a ball in hockey,” she says as a matter-of-fact and adds, “The world cup was happening in India but there was not much publicity given to the event. Look at the commercials on television announcing the arrival of Indian Premier League (IPL) and for the hockey world cup, the advertisements are just a few but it is good to see Virendra Sehwag, Priyanka Chopra and Rathod endorsing the game,” she says.

Hockey's loss has always been cricket's gain and experts feel it is the mindless comparisons of hockey players with cricketers which adds fuel to the fire.

“Everyone plays for the country then, why this treatment? Someone like Jagmohan Dalmia or Lalit Modi should take up the reigns of hockey to bring back the glory and develop the game,” suggests former player Mukesh Kumar. And, when India takes on Australia, he hopes the team members will opt for a different kind of strategy.

For now, cricket can take a backseat as the hockey spectacle continues. Hockey lovers are hoping India will pull off a magic and bring back the laurels by winning the cup. Whether India's magic run will continue or not only time will tell. Till then, we are having a prayer on the lips and keeping our fingers crossed!


India striker Shivendra Singh was on Monday banned for three matches and Pakistan's Irfan Muhammad for one game for different violations in the men's field hockey World Cup.

Shivendra was handed the suspension by tournament director Ken Read for hitting Pakistan's Fareed Ahmed above the eye in Sunday's league clash between the Asian rivals.

Read penalised Irfan for wearing an unapproved glove and knee pad to defend the first penalty corner in the same match, a statement from the International Hockey Federation (FIH) said.

Shivendra will miss India's key group B matches against Australia, Spain and England, but will be available for the last game against South Africa.

Irfan will sit out of Pakistan's match against Spain on Tuesday.

Shivendra, who scored a goal in India's emphatic 4-1 win on Monday, was charged under a level 2 offence of FIH's code of conduct which deals with physical assault without causing serious injury.

Read said he handed the three-match suspension after video replays suggested that Shivendra had hit Fareed deliberately, even though the on-field umpires did not penalise the player during the match.

Pakistan's Irfan was suspended following manager Asif Bajwa's admission that the offending glove and knee pad were not taken to the technical committee for approval before the tournament.

The 12-nation tournament in the Indian capital ends on March 13.


Day One Hockey World Cup Results: india 4 Pakistan 1. England 3 Australia 2. Spain 4 South Africa 2.