Indian hockey invests in futurehttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/indian-hockey-invests-in-future/

Indian hockey invests in future

The inclusion of the young trio of Deepak Thakur,Devesh Chauhan and Gaganjeet Singh in the squad for the Sydney Olympics was a brave decision

The inclusion of the young trio of Deepak Thakur,Devesh Chauhan and Gaganjeet Singh in the squad for the Sydney Olympics was a brave decision,one that was vindicated a year later.

The team only finished seventh at Sydney,but the experience gained helped Thakur,Chauhan and Gaganjeet become the stand-out performers when India triumphed at the 2001 Junior World Cup.

More than a decade later,one can sense a similar story unfolding.

India have finished fifth in the six-team Azlan Shah Cup,a tournament in which most teams have traditionally fielded young squads. Five-time champions India are the second-most successful team at the Azlan Shah Cup behind Australia,who won their seventh title on Sunday.

But the number of titles,however,mask the fact that India,because of insecurity of their coaches who worried about their future rather than the long-term goal of the team,fielded full-strength teams that outdid opposition comprising largely developmental squads.

However,national team coach Michael Nobbs’ approach to the tournament has been a refreshing change.

Nobbs fielded 10 young and untested players in the squad of 16 with an aim to groom talent. Though India could not dominate the tournament,the team was competitive against Australia and beat Pakistan twice.

Nobbs believes that the younger players have gained invaluable experience,which will hold them in good stead for the Junior World Cup,next year’s Asian Games and the 2016 Olympics.

Over the years,the Indian team has become a one-tournament wonder — performing well at the Azlan Shah and failing at other major tournaments.

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India will be hosting the Junior World Cup later this year and,with the experience they’ve gained at the Azlan Shah,the likes of Malak Singh,Nithin Thimmiah and Manpreet Singh will be hoping to emulate the feat achieved by Thakur,Chauhan and Gaganjeet 12 years ago.

(Mihir is a senior correspondent based in Mumbai.)

mihir.vasavda@expressindia.com