Indian hockey officials need to do some serious introspection, or else be prepared to vanish from the international scenario.
Everyone is aware of the fact that Indian hockey is in dire straits, but nothing has been done to stop the slide. Indian hockey fans would not be surprised at India's plight in this World Cup. We have to come to terms with the reality of modern hockey.
World champions once upon a time, India have already slipped way down world rankings and the fall can be even more drastic unless immediate measures are taken. Serious matters have been allowed to drift for a long time.
It's not the first time India has been relegated to the also-rans in the World Cup, but now we are showing signs of our inability to fix the problems. Such situations need drastic measures, which if delayed might lead to Indian hockey simply fading away from the horizon.
It is a nice gesture by the International Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee to help revive Indian hockey, but we Indians need to back it up with some serious efforts.
The FIH project for the revival of Indian hockey, with the IOC's backing, should be welcomed as it will add a new dimension to the Indian effort. The Olympic Solidarity Programme will inject the much required resources and expertise for rejuvenating our national game.
The FIH is aware of the fact that this project is a huge challenge and requires open minds and hard thinking by all people involved, which does not happen easily in Indian hockey.
We should have undertaken such a project a long ago. Had such efforts been made a couple of decades ago, Indian hockey won't be facing a situation where it is struggling to qualify even for the second-rung Champions Challenge.
India must not feel relieved at featuring in the Champions Challenge tournament next year, our effort ought to be to return to the medal podium of major events. The 2007 Champions Challenge in Belgium should be used to climb back into the Champions Trophy. Making the Champions Trophy should have been in India's plan of things after they slumped to defeat by letting in a last-minute goal against Germany in the opening match. That could have been achieved by trying for a top-six placement.
The defeat by England and a draw against South Africa ensured that India was again pushed to play for the bottom four spots, and that raised a question mark on our defensive tactics.
During the World Cup, there were grey areas all over the Indian performance. It was not just the jittery defence that let in crucial goals in the closing stages of successive matches. Among them, what stood out like a sore thumb, was that India's tactics seemed a bit confused, the strikers failed to convert scoring chances, and the team conceded far too many penalty corners.
Coupled with conceding excessive penalty corners was our poor defence against them, which increasingly made the defenders more tentative in tackling the rival forwards.
There is a lack of quality players coming through domestic events, and officials need to analyse why and how things came to such a pass that competitive domestic competitions failed to produce players for the national team.
The sparkle seems to have gone out of Indian hockey. Reviving it will need a lot more work by us Indians. The FIH project should not remain the only effort for injecting some vigour into the game across the nation.
Providing the high profile for India's long hockey tradition will take some time, but we must make the efforts and bring in an accountability clause for those entrusted with the task.
Until then, let's not be surprised by India's plunging fortunes.