It is a very sad day to see India being pushed to the bottom of the table in the preliminary pool matches of the Olympic Games hockey competition. The 1-4 loss to South Korea has left Indian hockey at the crossroads once again.
Slumping of the lowest position India will even finish in the Olympic Games hurts. Of course, we are not taking 2008 into consideration when India did not qualify for the Beijing Olympics and, theoretically were pushed below the 12 countries that actually figured in the starting lineup.
My memory goes back to the 1986 World Cup when we had to play in the playoff for the final two positions. It took a lot out of the Indian team then, and this outfit will have to bear the pain now, even though there is another match against Belgium before India goes into the contest for the 11th and 12th spots.
One wonders what sort of combination can the Indian team put up for the game against Belgium tomorrow. It is a national commitment to turn up and give their best performance, even though I must say the display so far has not inspired much confidence.
There has been no sign of a team effort in the true sense. Only some individual skills have been on show. When the results keep going against you, things are always tough. But they become tougher if the players are not a combined lot. There seems more pain ahead of Indian hockey before we can expect a change of scenario. Things have gone wrong drastically in the past and the players had to work very hard to overcome that.
The last-place in the 1986 World Cup in London and the 11th position in the 2006 World Cup at Monchengladbach are two instances when little went right for the Indian team.
Even as the Olympic hockey competition unfolded with successive defeats, I was hoping the team will pull itself together and try to improve upon India's No. 10 ranking.
Even that chance is now gone, but there are two more matches to be played. It would not be easy for the players to regroup themselves and produce a good show after four losses, but they will have to find the motivation from within.
The team's morale was not inspiring any confidence from the moment they stepped on to the field against The Netherlands. Three matches since then and very little change is visible.
I assume the feeling to intimidation was not there in the game against South Korea as the boys had played against them often and a similar body structure meant the Indian players could match them on the field.
But the result was no different as the Indian players began tiring on the pitch rendered heavier than usual by rain during the contest.
In this encounter with South Korea, the Indians once again came into the contest only in the second session. This seems a strange trend, unless it was the game plan. And if this was a game plan, it certainly was not very smart.
The big defeat by South Korea has once again brought into focus the team's disorganised defence and the tendency to give away soft penalty corners whenever the Indian goal comes under pressure.
In the forward line, the passes continue to be misdirected and what we have is a situation that India are yet to earn a point after four matches.
Even the penalty corners failed to produce any goals in this match. Shaky defence, misdirected passes, wayward shooters and indifferent penalty corner shooters are just some of the several aspects of Indian hockey that need urgent attention.