Ajit Pal Singh laments India’s ‘last minute’ problem

The Sydney Olympics in 2000 was when the Indian men’s hockey team started to incorporate the bad habit, says the former India captain.

Ajit Pal Singh...“We Indians have that mindset when few minutes are left, we feel the match is over and can relax.”   -  S. Subramanium

The Sydney Olympics in 2000 was when the Indian men’s hockey team started to incorporate the bad habit of losing possession in the dying minutes of matches, according to former captain Ajit Pal Singh. He was replying to a query pertaining to India’s loss to Malaysia in the semifinals of the Asian Games in Jakarta on Thursday.

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At the inauguration of artificial hockey turf at ICF, here on Saturday, Singh said, “The ‘last minute’ problem is still persisting with the Indian team.”

‘Pathetic’

In Sydney, India had allowed Poland to equalise with hardly a few seconds remaining for the hooter, to lose out on a spot in the semifinals. “This is not new. It was there earlier, too. It was obvious [at Sydney]. It started there, I think. We Indians have that mindset when few minutes are left, we feel the match is over and can relax. That is why foreign teams put pressure on us at the last minute. I don’t know what the coaches are doing. It is pathetic,” said Ajit Pal, a skipper of the national men’s team which won the World Cup in 1975 at Kuala Lumpur.

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Ajit Pal said he was disappointed with the performance of the Indian men’s team in Jakarta. “Frankly speaking, I expected the team to bag gold for it has been doing very well. There is no excuse,” he said.

‘A different ball game’

The 71-year-old said India has no choice but to put behind the Asian Games disappointment and focus on the World Cup to be held in Bhubaneswar in November-December this year. “World Cup is a different ball game. All the top teams are taking part. Our performance [in World Cups] in recent years has not been impressive. We should forget everything and put our best [foot forward] in front of the home crowd.”

The three-time Olympian felt the team had been doing well in many aspects, but needs to avoid unforced errors. “I think they are improving. It is its defence that makes silly mistakes. At this level, it must be careful,” he said.