Trying to restore a once proud and successful sporting nation to former glory is an extremely tough task, and it is a brave administrator or coach who takes on such a task.
One such job which would be comparative to being the England football manager, or the Springbok or All Black Rugby coach would have to be taking on a similar role with Indian hockey.
Jose Brasa had a go, so too did Rick Charlesworth – current Kookaburras coach – and now his former roommate Michael Nobbs is in the hot seat. As is always the case when you hold the top job, there are many who have thrown mud at the Australian coach. Yet he appears to be making headway, and India are playing some exhilarating hockey.
They may have disappointed at the London Invitational tournament, and the team’s confidence took a bit of a knock, which was evident in their opening game of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia when New Zealand thrashed them 5-1. However last two nights they showed that they are a spirited side with some true artists in their side. They fought back from 2-0 down against Great Britain and in all truth should have won, if they had been more ruthless in front of goal. Great Britain scrambling to hang onto a 3-2 game to win the game.
Last night however they were magnificent; magnificent in spite of some very dubious umpiring, which may well have been a result of a vociferous home crowd cheering on Malaysia. At one point India only had nine men on the pitch with two having been issued yellow cards. Malaysia too must be given credit for the part they played in a game that would lift hockey viewing and participation if it could be replicated by other nations. Both teams showed high levels of skill, pace and commitment and entertained all who witnessed the game.
India are not yet back at the top of the tree, but it appears that they are heading in the right direction. Encouraging too is the spirit within this side, no prima-donnas, just a close knit group with no ego issues who are determined to do well. IF they can replicate their Olympic qualifying form in the rest of the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament and make it to the final, they could well be amongst the medals in London, their first since 1980.