CHENNAI: Former Olympian Deepak Thakur’s record speaks for itself. A double hat-trick at the 2001 Junior World Cup was the start of something special. Representing the Tricolour at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics was the high point for the 34-year-old. “Representing the country at the Olympic stage is the dream for every sportsperson. The Arjuna Award also ranks right up there,” said the player from Hoshiarpur.
Inducted into the sport by his father, an ex-service man, at the age of nine, Thakur got selected for the hockey camp at NIS Patiala in 1993. “I was inspired by Dhanraj Pillay. He was my idol.”
Currently representing defending champions Indian Oil Corporation Limited at the 89th All-India MCC Murugappa Gold Cup, Thakur praised the facilities on offer. “The relaid turf is really good, much better than the previous one. Initially, it’s difficult to adjust to the bounce,” said Thakur, who helped his side to a draw by scoring the equaliser against Karnataka Hockey in the opener.
The forward, who won silver with the national side at the 2002 Asian Games as well as the 2010 Commonwealth Games, feels the current team is in complete disarray. “The Hockey World League Semifinals exposed all flaws prevalent in the system. There seems to be no proper planning or execution. We are tactically amateurs and lack fitness. Winning against minnows France, that too from a late goal, does not count as a positive.
“Getting hammered by the likes of Belgium, Australia and Great Britain showed how far we are lagging behind the big boys. It almost seems like we are regressing. If a foreign coach, who is being paid bucket loads of money, delivers such results, I feel an Indian coach will be better suited to the job,” Thakur said.
‘Happy’ as he is lovingly called, feels the 2016 Olympics will come too soon for the current contingent. “We may improve but others will improve further. I cannot see anything positive coming out from Rio. We have to evolve tactically and improve on fitness. Both the defence and attack are lacking in quality and our set piece conversion is really abysmal.”
Thakur admitted the infrastructure had improved from his starting days. “When I started it was impossible to get the facilities current players get. Hockey India has started putting in money for the development of the sport but grass-root development is the need of the hour if we are to reclaim our position as world champions,” he said.
He cites the example of cricket. “Cricket has got to where it is because of the success the national team has enjoyed over the years. Since our performance started declining, the interest among the general public has also waned. It is up to the hockey fraternity as a whole to help the national game come out of a rut,” he signed off.
Results: IOC 1 (Deepak Thakur 53rd) drew with Karnataka Hockey 1 (Machaiahpa 49th); Army XI 6 (Jonny Jasrotia 19th, Biraj Ekka 21st, Binoy Bengra 52nd, Siraju 55th, Chandan 64th, Pawal Lakra 70th) bt IOB 0.
[“source – newindianexpress.com”]