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History Not India’s Friend as 2018 Hockey World Cup Looms on the Horizon

With the 2018 Hockey World Cup set to be held in India, there remains a quiet confidence among local fans that India could possibly fare well in the tournament.

Shayne Dias | News18 Sports

Updated:November 26, 2018, 3:56 PM IST
History Not India’s Friend as 2018 Hockey World Cup Looms on the Horizon
A file photo of Indian hockey team from 2002 World Cup. (AFP)

With the 2018 Hockey World Cup set to be held in India, there remains a quiet confidence among local fans that India could possibly fare well in the tournament.

The cliché of home support bringing out the best from players is one as old as the history of all sports, yet it cannot be denied that playing a major tournament in the comfort of home surroundings has its own benefits.

But there is one bit of history that goes against India as the tournament looms large: their lack of success in the event’s 47-year-old history.

Since winning the title in 1975, India have come nowhere close to lifting the biggest prize in the sport.

Artificial Turf Woes

The use of artificial turfs in all major hockey tournaments since the early 1970s has played a part in the decline of India’s success in the sport.

It’s an argument that has been propagated countless times by experts and former players and it isn’t without some merit.

Prior to being crowned world champions in 1975, India had ended the previous editions of the tournament with a bronze medal (1971) and a silver medal (1973).

However, the win in 1975 was followed by years of underachieving at the highest level.

Hockey World Cup-Men

The 1976 Montreal Olympics was the first major tournament to use artificial turf. India came in at seventh that year, the first time in the history of the event that they did not win a medal.

Similarly, the 1978 World Cup saw them finish sixth. In fact, India haven’t even made the semis of the tournament since the year they went on to lift it.

The use of artificial turf has impacted the fortunes of both India and Pakistan at the international level since the costs of laying and maintaining the turf means the developing nations don’t often play on the turf till they reach senior levels.

However, the gap is slowly being bridged. A year ago, former India captain Sardar Singh told News18 that he believed that the use of artificial turfs in junior tournaments was helping youngsters come to grips with the surface from an early age.

Yet while Indian players today might be more comfortable on the playing surface, there is another troubling historical disadvantage they will have to rewrite come November 28.

No Home Comforts

India have hosted the tournament on two previous occasions: 1982 and 2010. The 1982 tournament saw them finish fifth while the 2010 tournament saw them finish eighth.

The poor results at home in international tournaments stretch to both the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games as well.

India made the finals of the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi but were handily beaten 7-1 by neighbours and arch-rivals Pakistan and settled for silver.

It was a similar story at the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in the nation’s capital: India were easily beaten 8-0 by Australia in the finals.

It is worth remembering that present sporting events are not determined solely by what happened in the past. But in India’s pursuit of a second-ever Hockey World Cup win, history is not their friend.

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| Edited by: Madhav Agarwal
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