At each Spanish goal, a deathly silence descended on the crowd – it was so different when the game began. As the Indian team entered the arena and burst into a warm-up sprint, the crowd went mad with joy.
There was again a widespread incident of the “goosebumps” phenomenon when the Indian national anthem was played; the stadium reverberated with “Jaya Hey, Jaya Hey, Jaya Hey” and a few people seemed overcome by emotion.
Goosebumps… an article available on the internet explains that “people tend to experience goosebumps during emotional situations, such as walking down the aisle during their wedding, standing on a podium and listening to a national anthem after winning in sports, or even just watching horror movies on television”.
Available at the National Stadium on Thursday night two of these stimuli – the national anthem and the horror of a big defeat to Spain, which practically ended India’s chances of reaching the semifinals of the World Cup.
Six penalty corners and only one goal – Indian hopes hanged from a thin thread held by Sandeep Singh, but it snapped after yielding the solitary goal. Spain, No. 3 in the world against India’s No. 12, seemed vulnerable in midfield but held firm in deep defence – India attacked their goal in strong waves but failed to get more than one field goal. Spain got lucky on a couple of occasions, and were helped by Indian errors. This 5-2 defeat has all but killed India’s chances of reaching the semifinals. Spain enjoyed a clear superiority in speed and finishing, but the margin of defeat seemed a bit too cruel.
Hope of a win against Australia was too audacious, though those in the stands that day did expect that – hadn’t India mercilessly routed Pakistan, the most recurrent – and thus most potent – enemy of the country?
India started well, actually, with some quick forays by the Indian forwards, but gradually Spain took control as the Indians tired; the Indian defence again made several elementary errors, and the Spaniards had too much speed and skill for the Indians to deal with. India lost 2-5 to Australia too, but Australia’s dominance was absolute; Spain were scrappy but easily the better team.
Realistically, at best now, India can try to finish among the top-10, but that may be too optimistic. Jose Brasa, Indian coach, has much work to do. As Indians fumbled with the ball, I spoke with a UP-based hockey lover who runs a basic academy. He said that most of the young kids at his academy are from poor families, the equipment is hard to get by.
Because no astroturf is available to them, they play on fields of grass very closely cropped so that the surface is smooth and quick; players from Europe or Australia begin on astroturf; that would explain their complete union with the elements of hockey – modern equipment, the playing surface, added to hard work on strategy.
The tournament has brought people, even if they’re ignorant about the game, to the stadium – that’s excellent. But for Indian hockey to again become a potent power, astroturf and equipment must be taken to those who want to play hockey.