The boys deserved to finish better: coach Bansal

June 23rd, 2009 - 8:35 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) A ninth-place finish was unthinkable when the Indian team left for the junior World Cup. Going by the Asian Champions’ track record in the run-up to the championship, the expectation was they should have been on the podium even if they had not come back with the cup they last won in 2001.
A disappointed Indian team returned home Tuesday, still groping to come to terms with the disastrous outing in Singapore and Malaysia.

Coach A.K.Bansal, who shaped the team in the last couple of years, said they paid dearly for their one bad game against New Zealand. Never did they realise that the drawn game would hurt them so badly.

“The format was such that there was no second coming. India would have still qualified for the medal round, if only New Zealand and the Netherlands had not played out a draw,” a dejected Bansal told IANS.

The hockey expert in the Malaysia surmised that Dutch and the Black Sticks played out a “strategic” draw to keep the fancied Indians out. The Netherlands had little interest in the outcome of the match as they were any through to the knockout stage. Their approach only helped the New Zealanders.

“The speculation counts for little as the net result was that Indians were out,” said Bansal.

Bansal said that technically the team played good hockey throughout the tournament, but tactically they were found wanting at crucial moments.

“Come to think of it, we scored the maximum number of goals in the tournament — 42, but a pity we knocked in so many goals in the classification matches.

“The boys are disappointed. I feel for them more as they prepared so hard for the tournament. Everyone sympathised with us as they all knew just as we did that were were good to be among the top three and certainly not the team to finish so low. But can’t blame anyone for our miserable showing except ourselves. Once we failed to make the 1-8 second stage, we had to fight for 9-16 classification places.”

“Its not that our quality of hockey went bad suddenly. The boys played exceptionally well in the classification matches. We should have shown the same energy and enterprise throughout our matches against New Zealand and the Netherlands. We had chances but failed to seize them.

“Our strategy was not to concede goals easily and wait for the right time to attack. Unfortunately, that did not work as we allowed the rivals to score at the wrong time in the matches.”

After pounding Singapore 10-0 in the opening match, India should not have have played out a 2-2 draw against New Zealand, said Bansal.

“Even after letting in two goals, we had enough chances to score, but we just could not finish. We were a bit unlucky too as four of our shots found the goalpost.”

Bansal said it was more or less the re-run of the New Zealand match against the Dutch. Despite having better of the exchanges and ball possession, the boys lost 2-3, the Dutch scoring on counter-attack.

“We still could have bounced back as we had forced three penalty corners in the closing minutes, but could not convert any.”

Asked whether Diwakar Ram’s lack of form in converting penalty-corners was a factor, Bansal said: “You have to take into account the effeciency of the opponents in blocking the attempts.”

Bansal’s one-line explanation: The boys were just unlucky.

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