Former players on Saturday expressed their deep disappointment over the Indian men's hockey team's disastrous outing in the Olympic Games in London where it finished an unprecedented 12th and last, but stopped short of calling for wholesale changes in the squad.
"My expectations were that we would end up at 6-8. we came nowhere. I was expecting to watch one match in the pool. If you don't consider 2008, where we could not qualify, this is the worst ever. We never finished last," former captain Gurbax Singh said.
Mervyn Fernandes, a member of the 1984 and 1988 Games squads in Los Angeles and Seoul, said that having gone through the pains of two failed campaigns in the past when the team finished fifth and sixth respectively, he would not criticise the players.
"It's never easy to play against the top teams like Germany, Holland and Australia without engaging them in contests on a regular basis before the Olympics. I would not criticise the players as I myself have gone through this phase," Mervyn said.
India on Saturday suffered their sixth defeat at the Games, going down 2-3 to South Africa in the classification match to finish last in the competition.
"What can you expect from our team when we had no defence. We had just one player Sardara Singh. What can you do? It's very very sad. I did not expect but not this bad," Singh added.
Singh said India needed to create a strong pool of players and it can expect to win a medal in another 12 years.
"However, the future is not bad. Unless we target 6-8 years. We have to start with sub-junior and junior and then target to make semifinals. No point preparing on year-wise basis. I am not willing to accept. We are bad," he said.
"World hockey has gone way ahead. We need at least 6-8 years to reach semifinals. It will take at least 12 years to win gold. It can improve, provided we start with juniors," he added.
1975 World Cup-winning skipper Ajit Pal Singh held the players responsible for the debacle, terming them as a bunch of a mediocre individuals who are just happy to be Olympians.
"The present players have got a lot of exposure, so they can't blame anyone for their dismal show. The present team has a bunch of individuals who are just satisfied to be in the Olympics," Ajit Pal said.
Former inside forward, Ashok Kumar, who is the son of hockey wizard Dhyan Chand, called for an overhaul of domestic structure to scout talented players.
"There is little craze among youngsters to play hockey, so how can you get a pool of strong players. Nationals are not held regularly. We need to first focus on grassroot level," he said.
Fernandes also wanted an improvement in the domestic structure.
"There is always hope. We have to improve the domestic structure and see that Nationals are held regularly. That is how we can scout for talent," Fernandes said.
He also wanted the ongoing dispute between rival hockey governing bodies -- Hockey India and Indian Hockey Federation -- to be settled at the earliest.
"It's better for the players one parent and not a disputed set of parents," Fernandes added.