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The plan to reinvent hockey’s circle

After the success of the two-goals-a-goal experiment in HIL, FIH contemplating increasing dimensions of scoring arc.

Written by Nitin Sharma | Chandigarh |
Updated: February 18, 2016 12:06:24 pm
Hockey, Hockey India, Hockey India League, Hockey India League 2016, HIL, HIK 2016, FIH, FIH hockey, hockey rules, new hockey rules, hockey news, sports news The shooting circle in hockey is currently 14.83 m from the back line.

As the fourth edition of the Hockey India League wore on, the public frenzy too waned. There was hardly any buzz that greeted the previous editions and players were mostly met with empty glares from the stands. But for reasons purely on-field, this installment, so far, has been successful. The radical two-goals-a-field goal change—to infuse more excitement—might not have seen more crowd teeming into stadium, its perceived purpose. But it certainly has impressed FIH president Leandro Negre, who says the rule might be formalised in international matches. Moreover, they are deliberating on re-sizing the scoring arc, increasing its dimensions by five metres, a measure the rule-makers believe would make the game even more an attractive package.

The two-goal experiment was the buzz in the hockey fraternity this season. From present players to coaches and former players to administrators, the virtues of the rule, and the way it has altered the players’ mindset, such as bringing in improvised methods to execute penalty corners, was expounded at length. The 69-year-old Negre, who has been watching the HIL matches with keen interest, says it could be incorporated into the next rule book, which will be published in 2017. “People are open and ready to test everything. I think the 2 points for a field goal has been a good experience. We are learning about that and we are waiting for our reports and with due time and consultations, I think we can even try these at the international level. But this has to be done under rule book and Mandatory Experiments whenever such things happen. I was not surprised about this idea when we first heard it.

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This was in our head for many years,” Negre told The Indian Express.

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The FIH’s focus clearly is to increase the goal-scoring opportunities, which the expansion of the arc clearly caters to.

“I think we are ready to change to make the game more attractive. There have been changes in the past too. One of the things which FIH is studying is to increase the circle. Because in this way, it is more difficult to defend and also one gets more room for passes, more easy to shoot to goal and is less important for short corner. An increase of even five metres in the present circle will make the game more scoring. Perhaps, we can ask Hockey India to test this in HIL. We have two top competitions in the world which really help FIH to run new ideas. One is Hockey India League and other is European Hockey League,” he said.

While any increase in the circle would increase the distance from the back line, it would also mean that it will give more opportunities for the team to score at narrow angles and from the right and left corners.

Jaypee Warriors assistant coach Jagbir Singh also sees the players concentrating on field goals. Singh believes that a move to increasing the circle area would increase goal-scoring opportunities. “I believe this is the need of the hour. Of course the pressure on the defenders would increase and it will make them difficult for them to defend. The recent years have seen team focusing on conceding less and earning more penalty corners. Any increase in the area would mean more passes and more moves to be produced. Right now most of the top teams like Germany, Australia and Netherlands focus on conversion from the circle and 23 m line entries into goals and it would also give forwards a chance to try goals from a narrower angle near the goal-post. It would increase the creativity,” says Singh.

Easier for keepers

The increase would be from the back-line parallel to the goalposts, making the goalkeepers’ life relatively easier. But they have to be vigilant about narrow angles now. Says former goal-keeper Baljit Singh Dadhwal: “The number of defenders would be the same in case of penalty corner or an attack in any situation. But it would also mean that the ball has to cover more distance in case of penalty corners. And that will give goal-keeper more time to save. On the contrary, it would result in more moves and narrow angle shots from near the post and outside the post. There will be more deflections and more possibilities will be there,” said Dadhwal.

The game, it seems, is in constant evolution, as the FIH seems obsessed to tinker with rules. “Over the years, we need to change. We have good ideas and we need to analyse it. For the youth, TV would be their cellphones. We need to make hockey a very attractive package. We need to make a product that attracts youth. It is not only how they play. We are also thinking how to present the game. And that also means there has to be focus on spectators. Whether it is television of cellphones, hockey as a product will be for spectators,” said Negre.

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