India should finish in the top four


IN the absence of Jugraj Singh, the principal drag flicker two years ago, India's chances are not easy to guess. In these days of competition, penalty corners decide the outcome of a majority of matches. True, we have Sandeep Singh but he has not been so far effective other than scoring a few goals against Asian countries. Good penalty corner hitters like Florian Kunz, Bram Lomans, Taeke Taekema and Sohail Abbas have been match winners, and sometimes even title winners for their teams. So, it is the penalty corner hitters who are vital.

As for the Indian team, I am not very impressed with the forward line. Moreover, the Indians have not played any serious competitive hockey since August last. The first match against Australia is very important, and if the Indians are able to block the open spaces against the fast moving forwards things can be bright. Again, it is a big task to check the flow of the Australian moves. I am quite happy about the composition of the mid-field and deep defence. From what I have heard, the top nations are concentrating more on preparing for the next World Cup and experimenting with juniors.

The morale of the Pakistan team is very high after the Rabobank victory. In my estimate India should be able to finish within the top four if nothing goes wrong from the beginning.

(Baskaran was captain of the gold medal winning team at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and India's coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympics)