India won the Junior World Cup in Hobart in 2001 but failed to get on the podium in 2005, finishing fourth. Over the past year so many questions have been raised on the state of hockey in India. I attempt to get some of these questions clarified with Anupam Gulati, the Advisor to Indian Hockey who is in Singapore with the Indian Junior team.
Question: What are the chances of the Indian Juniors at this tournament?
Answer: India have come to the JWC to play constructive and clean hockey. We have a healthy respect for all our opponents and will take the step by step attitude. Our first task is to qualify for the second round.
Question: After the 2001 JWC triumph, one would have expected the seniors to benefit, but that did not happen, why?
Answer: The seniors did fine till the Doha Asian Games in 2006. They finished fourth thrice in the Champions Trophy after 2001. However regretfully they faltered thereafter and did not make it to the Olympics for the first time. However now that a new hockey body has been put in place, and with the arrival of the new Chief Coach from Spain and his support staff, the scene shall improve in the time to come.
Question: Do you agree with the increased number of teams, the hosting of JWC by two countries and the format, not having quarter finals but a second round that sees teams having to play more matches?
Answer: I feel that the JWC must be restricted to a maximum of 16 teams. However, I understand that this edition is special because you have joint hosts. In future I would like to see only one country hosting the JWC. We are happy with this format of round robin first round preliminaries, followed by the second round, semi final and final.
Question: Do you agree or disagree on the teams having to travel between the two countries? Your thoughts on the logistical nightmare?
Answer: Traveling between two countries has its handicaps no doubt. The time taken shuttling between Johor Bahru and Singapore can easily take around four hours for a round trip. India is based at Singapore and I am already scared at the prospect of leaving our hotel so much in advance before a game at Johor Bahru. Can you imagine what state the boys will be in ? The tournament organisers must address this problem with the concerned authorities immediately.
Question: There has been so much talk that next years World Cup will be taken away from India, is there any truth to it?
Answer: India will host the 12th FIH Men's World Cup at New Delhi from 07-20 March 2010.
Question: India has complied by forming Hockey India in accordance to FIH requirements, but there is opposition on the domestic front, how will this be resolved?
Answer: Hockey India is already in place. You know that any new establishment has teething problems. Hockey India will address them for the good of the sport in the country.
Question: Teams voice concern about security in India hence they might be the force behind having the World Cup in India. Any thoughts to that?
Answer: We have not heard any official concern about security for the World Cup. As a matter of fact, highest level FIH delegations have come to India regularly and have expressed satisfaction on this aspect.
Question: Would India revive their test series against Pakistan and play it at a neutral venue like Dubai, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore?
Answer: We have no reservations of playing with Pakistan. Both the junior and senior teams have played each other recently. India and Pakistan played at Johor Bahru in the Pre JWC Test event in March and the seniors played at Kuantan during the Asia Cup in May.