Bhubaneswar : Penalty corners can change the complexion of a game in modern hockey but the Indian team paints a grim picture, at least if the statistic about its conversion rate is anything to by.
Despite possessing a number of quality drag-flick specialists in the side, the current Indian team has an abysmal record in penalty corner conversion rate. Things remained the same in this year’s Asia Cup as well as the ongoing Hockey World League (HWL) Final.
Out of 32 short corners they earned during the Asia Cup, India converted just seven and in this tournament the Manpreet Singh-led side made use of two out of 13 in three pool games.
Despite having four penalty corner specialists in the team – Rupinderpal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar and Amit Rohidas, India continued to falter in the area time and again and it was no surprise that they finished the pool stage winless.
Former captain Sandeep Singh, who is one of the best drag-flickers the country has ever produced, was candid in his assessment about India’s poor conversion rate.
“We have been let down by our finishing in the pool matches. We had the better share of ball possession, more number of penalty corners but our finishing was not up to the mark,” Sandeep said.
“What I feel is if we can have 35 to 40 per cent penalty corner conversion rate in a match no team can beat us,” added Sandeep, who has scored 145 goals from set pieces in 185 international games.
Stating that most of top international teams have devised strong penalty corner defence these days, the lanky fullback from Shahabad felt it is time India coach Sjoerd Marije try his back-up penalty corner options – Varun Kumar and Amit Rohidas – in the coming matches, to add variety.
“Now a days most of the teams are continuously working on penalty corner defence. In India’s last match against Germany we have seen how quick the German runners were during penalty corners and it didn’t allow much time to Indian drag-flickers to pick their spots.
“We should devise innovative ideas according to the strategy of the opposition teams,” Sandeep said.
“Till now we have seen only Rupinder and Harman take penalty corners but I feel Varun and Amit should also be tried as it will not only give variation and but also add an X factor,” he added.
Drag-flick great Floris Jan Bovelander too advocated the need for trying out variations to get the better of new tactics employed by defenders during penalty corners.
He felt the penalty corner experts of current generation should go back to old days and sometimes try straight hits instead of dragflicks.
“The hit is still useful in scoring goals from penalty corners. I believe players should try hits as well. What they need to do is to alter the angle a bit while trying hits,” said the Dutchman, who was nicknamed ‘Boem Boem Bovelander’ for his fierce flicks during the 1980s and 90s.