Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hard to hunt Kiwis

TODAY -- Canada v India (4pm), Malaysia v New Zealand (6pm), Pakistan v Argentina (8pm).
TOMORROW: Belgium v India (4pm), Canada v Pakistan (6pm), Malaysia v Argentina (8pm).
NEW Zealand has always been a bogey team for Malaysia, and coach Sarjit Singh aims to break the jinx today at the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh. New Zealand beat Malaysia 1-0 in the Madrid Olympic Qualifiers in 2004, and then again 4-1 in the China Olympic Qualifiers in 2006, and we fared miserably after that in both the Qualifiers.

"This is the first time we will be playing New Zealand since I became national coach, and from what I see in the NZ-India (NZ win 4-3), and NZ-Pakistan (Pakistan win 6-3) matches, they have a formidable side, and we will have to play well above our normal capabilities to beat them," said Sarjit.
Malaysia played a superb match against Pakistan, and today's match will prove weather the team has consistency or not. And then there is the Kiwi penalty corner drag-flicker Hayden Shaw, who has always been a thorn in Malaysia's side. He was instrumental in Malaysia's defeat in both the Qualifiers.
"We will have to stop Shaw for sure, as he is a very consistent penalty corner flicker. The priority will be to minimise penalty corner give-aways, and when we do, the first runner will have to work extra hard to stop Shaw," said Sarjit.
New Zealand, Canada, Pakistan and Belgium are Beijing Olympic teams, while India, Malaysia and Argentina are the three who missed the cut, and are on a morale re-building stage.
"For me, not only do I want a good finish in the Azalan Shah Cup, but I also want to see players improve from what they were in the Japan Qualifiers. I will use this tournament as an appraisal, and those who choose to remain in the shadows, will find themselves left out in the next tournament," warned Sarjit.
So far, Argentina and Pakistan have been the most impressive sides in the Azlan Shah Cup, and they will clash in the last match of the day, in what is expected to be a cracker of an encounter.
India have been a total letdown, but that is only to be expected, as the team selection was done at the eleventh hour due to turmoil back home in the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) which saw the removal of their president K.P.S. Gill and secretary Jothi Kumaran by the Indian Olympic Council.
India, in the two matches they have played here, have relied too much on drag-flicker Sandeep Singh, while the forwards have been blunt and of no help at all.

Pargat: We need 5 years

OLYMPIAN Pargat Singh is of the opinion that Indian hockey will need at least five more years to wake up from the deep slumber that they are in today.
Pargat, a terror of a defender who also had an uncanny ability to dribble with one hand and score goals, was made the team manager for Azlan Shah Cup after Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) president K.P.S. Gill and secretary Jothi Kumaran were unceremoniously sacked by the Indian Olympic Council last month.
Jothi was caught on tape, by a television network sting, allagedly accepting money for the inclusion of a 16-year-old player in the Azlan Shah Cup team, and in the resulting investigation, the IHF president was also forced to resign.
"India is not in a good shape today, and we will have to start by forming a stronger base and stop firing coaches after every tournament as a short-term solution.
"This is to prepare for the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and World Cups, and after that, our long term goal will be to be ready to make an impact again in the 2014 World Cup," said Pargat.
He is of the opinion that India has two strenghts which will see it re-emerge as a hockey power again.
"We have a huge fan base world-wide, and the marketing is limitless once we start producing results again. This should be enough motivation for whoever takes over the IHF administration after this," said Pargat. After the TV sting, Pargat was among the selectors who chose a 'new' team for the Azlan Shah Cup. There are 11 juniors in the Azlan Shah Cup team, and they have been on the receiving end in two matches so far. Pargat, who retired with 313 caps, of which he was skipper for 168 matches from 1983 to 1997, is now the Punjab Director of Sports, and in the midst of planning for six-a-side artificial pitches in his state.
"We only have four artificial pitches in Punjab, and that is surely not enough. So, we are planning to have more mini-pitches, where six-a-side hockey can be played, and at the same time, youth will learn their basics on the artificial pitches and mature faster," said Pargat.
His parting words: "It is easy to talk and draw up plans, but to realise it, we need sincere officials and administrators."