Tuesday, June 10, 2014

SV Sunil: A big let down in the World Cup

He was the touted as the man to look up in the Indian forwardline when the team embarked for The Hague for the 2014 World Cup. At 25, SV Sunil was the most experienced forward in the team and the performance he dished out in the marquee event left a pall of disappointment among all and sundry.

We all know burst of speed is SV Sunil’s biggest strength, but in modern hockey pace alone is not the only ingredient which can give you success. There are so many other aspects one needs to focus on to be a success story.

The lanky striker was a big flop at the World Cup – he looked incapable of leading from the front given the fact that the team had a spate of youngsters – the likes of Akashdeep Singh and Mandeep Singh – had just found their feet in the senior team after making their senior international debut last year.

A lot was expected from Sunil upfront, and although he shined in patches in the games against Spain and Malaysia, by and large he struggles to meet the team’s needs upfront. Of course, there was no shortage of those searing runs from him, but it hardly mattered as those sprints never quite translated into goals or scoring opportunities for his team.

One was left wondering whether Sunil appeared unsure about his role in the side. At times, he was playing in a withdrawn role trying to help the team’s midfield and defence and at other times playing upfront. All said and done, Sunil let his team down badly.

It’s always good to possess pace as your strengths, but it is equally important to maximize your strengths and deliver results for the team. Probably Sunil needs to put his thinking cap on and look where he is going wrong. Deflecting goals from crosses from the flanks is an important area for any striker in modern hockey – this is an area where Sunil has been caught napping. It’s not about this World Cup, over a period of time one has seen that Sunil hasn’t been effective with deflecting goals from crosses – he needs to improve his anticipation skills and stay alert to the situation. More importantly, he needs to work on how he can be in a better position to deflect those crosses into the opposition goal. On most occasions he slams it wide.

If deflecting goals from crosses is a must-improve area for him, his goal percentage is something that have continued to leave many frustrated. One would love to have the statistical figures of Sunil’s conversion rate from chances he gets inside the rival ‘D’. To put it bluntly, Sunil has been poor with his conversion. The greatness of a striker lies in converting even half-chances into goals or make the most of a slight lapse of an opposition defender or goalkeeper.

Seeing Sunil exude a blazing run down the flank, outpace opposition defenders is indeed a great sight, but what he does once he enter the opposition ‘D’ leaves only peals of frustration among hockey lovers. He really needs to work on his conversion – he cannot afford to ‘consistently’ muff up opportunities and let his team down.

Mind you, Sunil has played over hundred internationals and isn’t a greenhorn by any stretch of imagination. He is not getting old – clearly he has age is on his side but the manner in which he performed at the World Cup will surely throw up questions whether he indeed deserves his place in the side.

It will be interesting to see how the national hockey selectors assess his World Cup performance and pick him for the 2014 Commonwealth Games to be held in Glasgow beginning next month.

The year 2014 is a busy one for the Indian hockey team – the Asian Games and Champions Trophy are lined up – maybe wielding the axe on him from the Asian Games squad will be a good idea to allow Sunil deeply introspect and one knows the soul-searching may turn out to be good for him in the long run.

One is no way suggesting that Sunil was the principal reason behind India’s downbeat finish at the World Cup, but one thing that cannot be denied that he was a big let-down in the forwardline.

The writer can be contacted at: suhridbarua@gmail.com

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