2023 Hockey World Cup | Ashok Kumar tears into Team India after early exit

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Prior to the commencement of the competition, the Indian Hockey Team was predicted to advance to the FIH Hockey World Cup 2023 semifinals. But an early exit has drawn criticism of Harmanpreet Singh and his team for their 'ordinary' performance against New Zealand in the pre-quarterfinal.

The ex-players contend that the fiasco has stalled the nation's momentum following its historic bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics. After winning the gold medal in 1975, India entered the championship match hoping win a medal for the first time, but they were defeated by New Zealand in the crossover match.

Ashok Kumar, a member of the 1975 gold-winning squad, claimed that the Indians lacked talent and were much behind top nations in every aspect of the game.

"The team was given all kinds of support, 6-7 months camp, foreign exposure, top class infrastructure, the best of diets, what else could have been done? And what performance did they give? You cannot even reach the quarterfinals of a home World Cup in front of your fans," Kumar told PTI.

"It has to do a lot with the quality of players, ultimately the debacle was due to average players playing average games. That can't win you a World Cup medal," he added.

Kumar remarked after conducting more study of the performance, "Whenever we attacked, most of the time we ended up at the opaposition circle. I don't know how the players were trained, there was no distribution of the ball, no creative passes, and they simply didn't know what to do. If you can't score more than four goals against a team like Wales, then what are you doing? "

"Since they cannot score from open play, they had to depend on penalty corners and Harmanpreet Singh was under tremendous pressure and he failed. We were not up to the mark in all departments of the game. Except for Akashdeep Singh, I would say no (outfield) player played well in the four matches."

"The team failed miserably in defence also. They conceded two goals against Wales and then allowed New Zealand to come back twice after two-goal down. They cannot do that in a World Cup. I don't know why Rupinder Pal Singh retired after the Olympics, he would have been a great asset in defence and PC conversion," the 72-year-old said.

When asked if the there were any changes that were required to be made in the coaching staff, Kumar—who scored the game-winning goal against Pakistan in the 1975 World Cup final—replied, "We have had many foreign coaches in the past but what is our achievement in the World Cup after 1975. So, please tell me what difference would have been there if we had Indian coaches. Indian coaches would not have done worse at least.

"Thanks to the support of the government, especially the Odisha government, we are hosting World Cups here and our team should have capitalised on this. But it's like we are hosting tournaments and our team is not getting better. I feel that the good momentum we gained from the Tokyo Olympics has been halted by this World Cup performance."

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