The Indian hockey team had just 10 minutes to get ready and leave for a felicitation programme on Wednesday not because they got caught up elsewhere,but because they hadnt been told.
The difference between a decent team and a consistently good one often lies in the small details,and the Indian team need to iron out the little problems to build on their performances of the last fortnight.
The biggest positive for the team,as they head for test tours to New Zealand and Australia,is the confidence they have gained from playing in front of huge home crowds in the Gold Cup. For a change,we are going into a test series against teams such as Australia and New Zealand,on their soil,confident of our abilities. We are aiming at winning,we are not in awe of their reputations, captain Sandeep Singh said on the eve of the teams departure. The Gold Cup was the first ever double-leg,four-nation hockey tournament in India and while the hosts did well against much higher ranked teams,it may be too early to call it the revival of Indian hockey,coming as it did in front of an average crowd of 15,000 that often overwhelmed the opposition.
On the positive side,there is enough bench strength and a coach who is willing to experiment. If a player is on the field for 70 minutes for three straight matches,he is bound to falter in the fourth, insists coach Harendra Singh.
The return of players such as Arjun Halappa,VS Vinaya,Vikram Pillay and Ignace Tirkey,back from successful stints in the German League,has also brought some much-needed experience to the ranks. The team took the fight to their opponents a lesson learnt from their Argentina tour and in the dying moments,more than playing hard,they played smart.
The attack has enough talent,even though three of the frontline players are out of the forthcoming tour Deepak Thakur and Bharat Chhikara are injured while Prabhjot Singh is getting married. Sardar Singh,Hari Prasad and Sarwanjit Singh have been called up in their place.
There are still issues with the defence and the fact that the team let in some soft goals and gave away easy penalty corners is a concern,but the coach is confident of working on them. There will be issues,no team can go from struggling to dominant overnight. This tour is very important because we have eight matches to work on our shortcomings, he said.
The team were scheduled to depart late on Wednesday night for a two-test series against Australia,after which they head to New Zealand for a four-test series.