India has a good chance to reach Hockey World Cup semifinals: Ties Kruize

Dutchman Kruize, wrecker-in-chief of India’s hopes in the 1973 World Cup, believes the host has two crucial ingredients for success - a good goalkeeper and a sharp short corner specialist.

Published : Jan 08, 2023 18:50 IST

FILE PHOTO: Ties Kruize was the top-scorer in 1973 and 1975 World Cups.
FILE PHOTO: Ties Kruize was the top-scorer in 1973 and 1975 World Cups. | Photo Credit: K. Gajendran.

FILE PHOTO: Ties Kruize was the top-scorer in 1973 and 1975 World Cups. | Photo Credit: K. Gajendran.

To be the top-scorer in a tournament like the Hockey World Cup is an achievement. To do so twice in consecutive editions takes special talent, especially when it comes at a time when the game was dominated by the Indian sub-continent and was more about ‘artistry’ and ‘skill’ than raw power.

As a Dutchman, Ties Kruize did so in 1973 and 1975 – despite wildly contrasting fortunes of the Netherlands team itself - mastering penalty corners when they were not as ubiquitous as now and playing a huge role in making the sport popular in the country. Now 70 and owner of a financial management and advisory firm, Kruize - the Dutch team manager at the 2010 edition - continues to stay updated with the sport.

“It would be great to have an India-Holland final but I don’t know, Holland has a new coach and a rather new team with a few youngsters. Then again, it’s the Dutch team and we have a very good club system so there’s a lot of potential. As for India, I know the advantage of playing at home, especially in India where the crowd is so fantastic. And of course, it’s all about the quality of game they play. But if India starts properly I think India has a good chance to at least reach the semi-finals,” he told Sportstar in an exclusive interview from The Hague.

“Because they (India) have fantastic skills. And the Australian coach you have (Graham Reid), he has found a good combination between playing spectacular hockey and playing for a win. You have a very good short corner specialist, which is very important in hockey nowadays, and a good goalkeeper. And these two are a good base for a good result for the team, so I have expectations from them, I hope they do well,” he added.

Incidentally, Kruize was the president of HC Klein Zwitserland, one of the top Dutch clubs, when current Hockey India president Dilip Tirkey turned out for it in 2005-06, one of the few Indians to play in a foreign league. “I played there all my life and I’m still a member. Dilip was one of the players we asked to come and play. He was very good and a friend. And the centre forward, Gagan (Ajit Singh). They’re very, very nice people and very good players, it was great having them,” he revealed.

As a player, though, he was almost single-handedly responsible for denying India in the 1973 final, scoring twice to take the game into penalties before India fumbled. But more than personal success, Kruize sees the Dutch win as the inflection point in the sport’s growth back home, aided by television much like the 1983 World Cup did to cricket in India.

“I was only 19 or 20 back then, the World Cup was a new competition, and it was the first time that a hockey tournament was being televised in the Netherlands. And we started very badly because in the first two games we played, against Argentina and Pakistan, we drew the first and lost the second and only had one point. And then, as it always happens in sports, something just happens. And, out of nothing, we started to play good hockey.

“Then we reached the semifinals against Germany, and that was the first game which was broadcasted live in the Netherlands, on black-and-white TV, and we beat Germany on strokes, which kind of became big because Holland vs Germany is always special. And then the same thing happened in the final against India, and a lot of spectacular things happened, balls were stopped on the goal line, and it was very attractive to the public. The whole stadium was orange.

“The Dutch Hockey Federation had about 55,000 people back then who played hockey. And after we became World Champions, within 18 months, we had a hundred thousand. So the fact that we became champions at home, on television, was the start of the popularity of hockey in Holland,” he explained.

He expects the same this time around, although he rues the absence of Pakistan. “I’ve been to India several times, both as a player and as a manager. And, as a player from abroad, very honestly, I think India is the best country to play hockey. It really is fantastic. The crowd – I played in front of almost 45,000 people – and the atmosphere is something really special.

“I always say, the other hockey countries need India and Pakistan, when they play it is spectacular, there is planning but in principle, there are no tactics really. You have the ball and move ahead, then you lose the ball and everyone goes back, it’s like a non-stop wave, beautiful. Unfortunately, Pakistan is not so good at the moment because nobody can go there to play and they don’t have the money to go abroad. Fortunately, India is back among the top and that is very important for hockey to grow.”

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