New Delhi: India are set to host the 12th edition of the Men's Hockey World Cup at Bhubaneswar in the months of November and December this year, and the home advantage factor is one of the many reasons the Indians are being tagged as favourites ahead of the event.
However, if former Australia international and coach Ric Charlesworth is to be believed, the home factor can sometimes add extra pressure on the players if the tournament happens to be hosted in a country like India, which can then have a negative impact on the results as well.
"Home advantage makes a difference everywhere. But, the other side is that sometimes in India it can be a disadvantage, because there will be huge expectations on the Indian team. Things going okay, yes, but it can go either way. But you can say, on balance, it’s an advantage," Charlesworth said in an interaction with Firstpost on the sidelines of the Royal Stag Barrel Select Perfect Strokes event in New Delhi.
India are currently participating in the Asian Champions Trophy in Oman, where they have defeated the home side (11-0) as well as arch-rivals Pakistan (3-1) in the two matches that they've played so far, and are set to play Japan on Sunday. Their last outing saw the Harendra Singh-coached side suffer a shock penalties defeat to Malaysia in the semi-finals of the Asian Games event in August, before they eventually settled for bronze with a win over Pakistan in the play-off.
"We went there looking for Pakistan to play India in the final. And what happened instead? Japan played Malaysia. And both of those teams were playing well, confident, winning easily. This is always a formula for disaster (being over-confident)… That’s not to say you’re anxious that day, but you have to be aware of that, and that can make a huge difference," added Charlesworth, who also served as a technical advisor to both the Indian men's and women's teams.
Former World Cup winners and Olympic champions India and Pakistan have over the years lost their grip on the sport, with teams such as Australia, Netherlands and Germany dominating in the last two decades. When talking about the styles of play in the subcontinent versus that in the West, Charlesworth felt that the game in the current era is largely undifferentiated.
"When I grew up, all my coaches were from the subcontinent, and we learnt from them. They were the innovators of the game. This was in the 1960s and 1970s. We built what we call a ‘Hybrid Game’ — it’s not a European game, it’s not an Asian game, it’s somewhere in between.
"As the worlds changed, and we became more and more globalised, the game of hockey everywhere is undifferentiated in some ways. I don’t think the Asian style is such. What you do have though, the Asian players, especially the ones in India, they are different in physique and character in some ways.
"So they bring different things to what is essentially is an undifferentiated game. You have very nimble players who can turn quickly, terrific ball skills. You also have big powerful guys now, you know. So, I think, you have to be yourself, but the game is undifferentiated wherever you play," said Charlesworth.
On some of the weaknesses that the Indian men's team has shown in recent years, especially on the penalty corners, Charlesworth felt that the team was making progress as far as the larger picture is concerned, and that taking one or two bad tournaments into account to arrive at a judgement would not be right.
"In any tournament, that can happen. But if you look over the numbers, when the numbers are larger, then I think they’re making progress. They have good corner takers. Their corner defence is better than what it was. But in any tournament, you can have bad results. So you have to look at the bigger picture than just one tournament."
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Updated Date: Oct 21, 2018 12:44 PM