2002 KUALA LUMPUR (Feb. 24-March 9)


(Winner: Germany; Runner-up: Australia; Third place: Netherlands.

India: 10th)

India is known for its bad starts. Drawing with Japan (2-2), which had qualified after three decades, was not a great way to start our campaign. Then, we lost three consecutive matches — close encounters against Korea (1-2), Malaysia (2-3) and England (2-3) — before our coach Cedric D’Souza was sacked. The unfortunate sacking had its adverse effect on the players. At a big stage like the World Cup, it was an embarrassment for all of us.

We had a good team which had been playing well for some time. So, everybody was positive. Cedric, on his second stint had been there for three years, and had established a good rapport with the players. When he was removed all of a sudden, everyone was shocked. Naturally, the mood became sombre.

Replacing Cedric with assistant coach C. R. Kumar did not help. Kumar did not have a good rapport with the players and was not an experienced coach. A mature coach in his place would have handled things in a better way.

As usual, expectations were high before the team’s departure. So, when we were out of the race for the semifinals, some players got demoralised and we did not fare well in the classification matches as well and finished 10th.

In fact, we should have done well in Malaysia as conditions suited us better than the Europeans. Besides, we had been doing well in the Azlan Shah Cup and had got a bronze in the Commonwealth Games there in 2002. However, things did not fall into place and that explains why Japan (10 points against India’s seven) finished ahead of us in the pool stage.

For a change, instead of 12 teams, there were 16 sides. But it would be improper to say that we did not do well because of playing more matches.

We were inconsistent. Australia scored four second half goals to beat us (4-3). As always the case with us, the match against England was a tough one. But we had played well to beat a strong Spain (3-0) in the classification matches.

Germany, which defeated Australia 2-1 in the final to win its first ever World Cup in nine consecutive appearances, was the deserving champion. It was rewarded for its long-term and target-oriented planning.

Normally, the Europeans do not find the climate in Malaysia favourable. The German team played the Azlan Shah Cup for two-three years before the World Cup to get acclimatised with the conditions.

It was a strong team with some good players. I remember their captain Florian Kunz (in pic) who was chosen the Man of the Final. He was an exceptional drag-flicker and he led his team by example.

(As told to Y.B. Sarangi)