India’s slide from hero to zero at Buenos AiresFebruary 17th, 2010 - 5:33 pm ICT by IANS
By Anand Philar
Fourth World Cup - Buenos Aires, Argentina (March 18-April 1, 1978)
Less than a year after winning the World Cup, Indian hockey was down in the dumps and the slide continued unchecked. Indian hockey has never seen darker days than the ones in the 1976-78 period marked by a seventh place finish at the 1976 Montreal Olympics where astro-turf was introduced.
The 1975 World Cup success led to complacency and indiscipline, both among players and administrators. Thus, the team that left for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, like the Montreal Olympics side, was disjointed. It was hardly a surprise then that India ended up sixth in Buenos Aires.
“I was very much a new face in the team, but I clearly remember two days prior to our departure for Buenos Aires, Mehboob Khan and Prabhakaran were dropped and replaced by Virender Singh and Syed Ali,” recalled Zafar Iqbal, who had made his international debut the previous year. “As such, the team never really settled down and there were other issues too that further spoilt the atmosphere within the side.”
During the preparatory camp, Surjit Singh, Baldev Singh and Virender Singh walked out following difference with the management. Baldev subsequently apologised and returned to the training camp. In the meantime, B.P. Govinda too left the camp saying he would play only as the captain. “These issues did a lot of harm to the team,” observed Zafar.
On reaching Buenos Aires, the situation within the team did not improve. The playing elevens were decided at the last possible moment and the mismanagement was reflected in a series of defeats, including 1-3 to Canada and 0-7 to West Germany in the league besides 1-2 to Spain in the 5-6 position playoff match.
“When I look back, I feel very sad that a team with so much talent could not mesh as an effective unit. If we had planned better and kept our focus, like the Pakistanis did and which helped them win the World Cup, we could have at least reached the semi-finals,” Zafar pointed out.
Soon after returning from Argentina, young half-back Robert Claudius, son of four-times Olympian Leslie, died in a road accident in Kolkata to complete a miserable period for Indian hockey.
Goalkeepers: Manuel Fredericks, Olympio Fernandez. Full-backs: Gopal Bhengra, Dung Dung, Baldev Singh. Half-backs: Robert Claudius, Virender Singh, John Kerketta, Vasudevan Baskaran. Forwards: Sukhbir Singh Grewal, V.J. Phillips (captain), Vincent Lakra, Ashok Kumar, Surinder Singh Sodhi, Zafar Iqbal, Syed Ali. Coach: Randhir Singh Gentle.
How they finished:
1. Pakistan; 2. The Netherlands; 3. Australia; 4. West Germany; 5. Spain; 6. India; 7. England; 8. Argentina; 9. Poland; 10. Malaysia; 11. Canada; 12. Ireland; 13. Italy; 14. Belgium.
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Tags: aires argentina, baldev, complacency, dumps, elevens, govinda, hero to zero, hockey world cup, indian hockey, international debut, iqbal, mismanagement, montreal olympics, new face, pakistanis, prabhakaran, syed ali, virender, west germany, world cup success