Deepak Thakur: Asian-style skills still relevant in modern hockey

The Asian style is missing now and it is hurting Indian hockey, according to the former India forward.

IOCL coach Deepak Thakur gives instructions to his players during the Bengaluru Hockey Super Division Championship.   -  SAMPATH KUMAR G. P.

At his peak, Deepak Thakur was a feared forward. Using lightning speed and deft stick work, Thakur gave defenders a horrid time.

In general, his Indian team of the noughties played a free-flowing style of hockey. This is in contrast with the ‘European style’ used now, where the emphasis is on possession and precision technique.

Thakur believes that the ‘Asian style’ of his era still has its place in modern hockey, and that the Indian team should utilise the services of his former team-mates like Prabhjot Singh, Gagan Ajit Singh and Dhanraj Pillay to refine these skills.

“Today, all international sides employ the European style of play. When all teams are playing like this, you need a second pattern to break their game-play. This is where you need to be adept at Asian-style skills like dodging, return-passes, and stick work. If you can develop these aspects of your game, you will be able to break open the defence. This Asian style is missing now, which is hurting Indian hockey,” Thakur, the IOCL team coach at the Bengaluru Hockey Association Super Division hockey championship here, said.

‘Masters’

“Former players like Prabhjot Singh, Dhanraj Pillay and Gagan Ajit Singh were masters of Asian style hockey. They should be brought in to coach the national team in some capacity. This will be hugely beneficial, as we can get the best of both worlds,” Thakur added.

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The Arjuna awardee is happy that a more professional approach has entered the sport. “Money is being invested now. Though top facilities are not available at the grassroot level, it is good that it has come to the elite level. Everything is a lot more professional now — players earn good money, and we also have video analysts, physiotherapists and so on,” Thakur said.

“If we had these facilities during our playing days, we could have won Olympic and World Cup medals.”

Busy with smartphones

On his electrifying attacking partnership with Prabhjot Singh and Gagan Ajit Singh, Thakur said, “The reason why we were so good together on the field was because we shared a close bond off the field. The three of us came up through the junior ranks at the same time. And during our senior India days, we spent a lot of time together. In those days, we did not have much entertainment. So we played cards together, chatted, and kept each other company. This sort of team bonding is missing now, with most players busy with their smartphones.”