Even more heartening was the consistent pace with which the Indian youngsters played throughout the 70 minutes in extreme humidity. There has been dramatic improvement in basic skills such as trapping and passing, though some players tended to over-indulge in dribbling when situation called for a quick release of the ball.
However, if the team were to get more balanced, then the scoring skills of the forwards require a lot of honing. There were moments in the final when the India had goal beckoning at them, but these chances went unutilised due to old failings.
Historically, Indian forwards have always been found wanting in positional play in the striking zone as also anticipation besides not taking shots at the goal at the first opportune moment. Hesitation and that wretched one last dribble rather than making an attempt gave precious fractions of a second for the opposition to regroup. Dribbling, synonymous with sub-continental hockey, is a bane and a boon in modern hockey which is founded on speed and power, and quick ball rotation using the long hits, underlining the fact that ball travels faster than man. The Indian players in Johor Cup used the dribble to great effect in deep defence and some of the stick-work bordered on magic. Conversely, the same art let the team down in attack when the ball had to be released rather than kept. These are issues for the coaches to work on, but nothing should take anything away from the triumphs in Incheon and Johor which have come not a moment too soon for Indian hockey that was down in the dumps after a string of failures, notably the 2012 London Olympics where the former monarchs were reduced to paupers who finished last.
Perhaps, it would not do any harm to include a few from the Johor team for the upcoming Test series in Australia and also the elite Champions Trophy in Bhubaneshwar in December to kick-start India’s preparations for the 2016 Olympics which should be the focus rather than immediate results. If anything, there is no dearth of talent in Indian hockey, but of greater importance is to nurture these young, enthusiastic men who have done the country proud this summer.