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."