The Asia Cup hockey tournament finished at the weekend and India were victorious over Malaysia in the final, and claimed their third title.
The tournament had a new format this time around, after the round-robin pool games the top two teams in each pool entered another pool where they played each other, and the top two teams would play off for the title, and the bottom two for the bronze medal.
It is a similar format that has been used at the Cricket World Cup that seems to make the event drag on longer than is needed, and the outcomes invariably are the same as if the teams had progressed via the pools. In the Hockey it was the same, India and Malaysia who topped their respective pools progressing to contest the final.
The tournament was hosted by Bangladesh, and unfortunately for the organisers and the teams, the rains had a large impact late in the tournament.
Malaysia’s last pool game was delayed due to torrential rains and the game was rescheduled to start at 9.30pm instead of the original 5pm start time.
This meant that this game did not finish until close to 11pm.
The next day, Korea who finished third on the Super 4 ladder had to play Pakistan for the bronze medal at 3pm, just 16 hours after their last game. Malaysia had to meet India in the final 18 and a half hours later.
When one takes into consideration that this final pool game would have finished at around 1045pm, the players then had to warm down, do all of their post match activities, head back to the hotel through the busy streets of Dhaka, have a meal and hydrate. They would not have gone to bed until about 1-1.30am.
They were then asked to back up and play in the most important match of the tournament for both teams in less than 20 hours.
Which raises a question that has been asked for a number of years, why do so many hockey tournaments have their semi finals, or last group games come to a conclusion the day before the final? Surely it would be better to schedule the tournament so that all teams have a rest day before the final. This way you are ensured that your showpiece game will see teams at their peak, and not tired from an intense game usually emotionally and physically the day before.
‘This is the way it has always been done’ is the usual response when this issue is raised. Does that make it right? Another response is that ‘todays players are so fit it is not an issue.’ Has anyone actually asked the players?
Is it a coincidence that both Malaysia and Korea lost their final games at the Asia Cup? Korea missing out on bronze and Malaysia losing the gold medal and missing out on their first title. How much did the scheduling affect the outcomes?
One would hope that lessons would be learned from the events of last weekend, and the decision-makers look at the scheduling to make sure that this never happens again. After all it is about showing off the game in the best light. This tournament only takes place every four years, so therefore surely you would want to ensure that the players are adequately refreshed to make your showpiece games events to remember.