x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Time for India to rebuild their hockey team

The national side have won eight Olympic golds but they have fallen far down the order in recent years.

India's Sardar Singh, left, is the nations great hope in the team.
India's Sardar Singh, left, is the nations great hope in the team.

Those who follow Indian hockey can still remember the trauma of the Sydney Olympics 12 years ago.

India led unfancied Poland by a goal with less than 120 seconds left. Had they won, they would have advanced to the semi-final for the first time since Moscow in 1980.

Instead, Tomasz Cichy popped up to score and India finished level on points and goal difference with South Korea. The Koreans, who had won the game between the two sides, advanced and finished with the silver medal. India ended up in seventh place.

The team heads to London having failed to make it to Beijing four years ago. Failure to qualify, having won eight golds in the past, was truly the nadir for Indian hockey. Since then, with expectations drastically reduced, there have been some encouraging signs, especially under the tutelage of Michael Nobbs.

The main repository of hope is Sardar Singh, a classy centre-half who was twice named Player of the Tournament at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia.

That Nobbs is the man rebuilding Indian fortunes is another of those delicious ironies that sport throws up. At Los Angeles in 1984, the last great Indian side missed out on a semi-final place to Germany, on goal difference. The only match they lost was to an Australian team that Nobbs was part of.

With Germany and Netherlands in the same group, India are unlikely to win a medal in London, but a few more shoots of recovery would represent progress for a nation that was left behind by the move to synthetic grass.

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