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Women’s hockey team got their calculations wrong

By Anand Philar, IANS,

New Delhi : It would seem that the Indian women’s hockey team and its support staff need a lesson in mathematics rather than the game. Their inability to get a simple calculation correct cost the Indian team a medal that they were good enough to win at the Commonwealth Games.

“I take full responsibility,” declared coach Sandeep Somesh, doing his best to mask his acute embarrassment after India’s 3-1 win against South Africa in the concluding league fixture.

The Proteas advanced to the semi-final on superior goal-difference after tying on points while the Indians were still to get a grip on the equation that suggested they win by a four-goal margin and not six or seven or even eight as the team thought.

Team captain Surinder Kaur, in an emotional outburst, waved the official league table results and said: “I have evidence to prove that we had to win by a margin of six and not four goals.”

A reporter politely pointed out that she had got her calculations wrong. Surinder asked a volunteer to fetch team manager Rupa Saini who never showed up and after a while, the skipper slipped out in the middle of the Media conference, leaving Somesh to carry the can, as it were.

The incident accurately reflected the sorry state of affairs in Indian women’s hockey.

“We still did well under the circumstances,” defended Somesh whose responses, to say the least, were hardly convincing.

“We have a lot of areas to work on. Penalty corner conversions, switching from defence to attack and from flank to flank, stronger defence and better finish,” said Somesh, covering virtually every aspect of the game. “We hope to do well in Asian Games, for that is our target,” he concluded.

For a team that was brimming with talent, the overall performance was rather abysmal in a field that had sides that were struggling as much as India were to raise their level at a competition that immediately followed the World Cup in Argentina.

“It is tough to maintain a high level of consistency when you have back-to-back tournaments like the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games,” admitted Australian team coach Frank Murray and that is the only admissible argument that the Indian team can put forth.

When in flow, the Indian team looked as good as the medallists – Australia, New Zealand and England. The likes of teenage sensation Rani Rampal, Surinder, Jasjeet Kaur and Chanchan Devi carried the team and somewhat made up for the absence of a penalty corner specialist.

Somesh had no plausible reply when asked about going into a tournament without a penalty corner specialist. “We do not have one and so have to depend on variations,” he said. Needless to say, the attempts at variations lacked conviction and never quite looked practiced.

Looking ahead to next month’s Asian Games in China, the coach expected a stiffer task ahead with China and Korea being the main rivals. “The time is short, but we have to work with what we have got,” Somesh said.

India’s fifth place finish at the Commonwealth Games is a far cry from the gold medal in 2002 at Manchester and the problem seems to be the inability to bridge potential and performance.

The final positions of teams:
1. Australia; 2. New Zealand; 3. England; 4. South Africa; 5. India; 6. Canada; 7. Scotland; 8. Wales; 9. Trinidad and Tobago; 10. Malaysia.