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India faces World champion Germany

S. Thyagarajan

Amsterdam: A rest day on the second day of a competition of this stature is quite unusual. But there are compelling reasons to give the Rabobank eight-nation hockey tournament a break on Monday after two matches. This recourse had to be taken since Sunday's programme clashed with the final round matches in the four-nation Masters event at Hamburg.

The four top teams involved in the Rabobank tourney — the Netherlands, Germany, Pakistan and Australia — should be given a day's rest on Monday and resume here from Tuesday. All the eight teams that are contesting here will be on view at the Wagener Stadium, giving the mini-World Cup seemingly another start, virtually another curtain raiser as it were.

India's match against the World champion, Germany, leads the programme. Interestingly, the last encounter between the teams at last December's Lahore Champions Trophy, where India was the substitute team for Australia that pulled out citing security reasons, the Indians won 3-1.

In the aftermath of the disaster which the Athens Olympics was for India, this win came as a great morale booster enabling the team a fourth place in the competition, ahead of Germany and New Zealand. That it was a small consolation is a different matter altogether.

Mixed feelings

It was with mixed feelings that one should look back on India's showing in the first match on Sunday. None would have put the money on India winning against the winner of the Champions Trophy preparing for next week's European Cup. But there were moments that suggested a draw, which would have been a wonderful result indeed for a start.

It goes without saying that the coach, Rajinder Singh (jr.) should expend more midnight oil to devise fresh inputs for the team. What was on display against Spain contained the worn out format of meaningless long and overhead passes. The element of surprise which makes competitive hockey a supremely thrilling spectacle was missing.

The point that needs to be emphasised is that the senior stars in the frontline must show better co-ordination. Gagan was far too below his best. So were Prabhjot and Deepak, bringing on the hard-working defence enormous pressure and for too long. The newcomers like Prabhdeep Singh and Ravipal Singh clearly do not belong to this genre. The much-touted flicker Didar Singh managed to get just one try. Though there was some imagination in the variation it was too slow and therefore ineffective.

The close contests in the Masters' tournament where the Dutch won the trophy on Sunday convincingly indicate what is in store when the contestants begin their work here. The defeat of Pakistan in all the three matches perhaps mirrors the strength of the two European outfits and, of course, that of the Olympic champion, Australia. Interestingly, Spain, which won 1-0 against India on Sunday, takes on Pakistan, whose players by now must be disheartened by the turn of events in Hamburg.

Video screen

The big video screen at the stadium has come as a boon for spectators who had the benefit of viewing the replays of goal-scoring and penalty corner conversions. This facility should now put the umpires on their toes, literally so. For, any wrong decision may well bring in heckles by the crowd. The FIH is still examining the pros and cons of taking technological aids for helping the umpires through TV replays. Coaches advocate that such a measure, at least for determining the goals or tricky decisions that cause so much heart burn and controversies as happened in Rotterdam in the medal match involving India and Spain.

Tuesday's matches (IST): India v Germany (4 p.m.), South Korea v Australia (6 p.m.); Pakistan v Spain (8.30 p.m.); Netherlands v England (11.30 p.m.).

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