Tuesday, March 9, 2010


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!