Lack of match practice before the Asian Games, notwithstanding the tours to China, Australia and Europe, had got MHF to reset its position of sending a mix team of juniors and seniors to our best team for the Commonwealth Games (CWG). The idea being the CWG would provide a suitable tournament for good match practices for our team to the Asian Games, which is a key cog in world hockey qualifiers ie a direct entry to the 2012 London Olympics for the Asian Games hockey gold medallist. The CWG does not provide any form of such incentives.
Therefore Malaysia's silver in 1998 and bronze in 2006 CWGs may give the impression that our hockey lads were then only going to glorify themselves in non-consequential events. Not really, because it did contribute to the nation's medal haul, which is very important to the statisticians in NSC, who have to proudly present the figures to justify the huge resources spent in preparing the teams for both the Commonwealth Games. Somewhere this rationale seems to have gone astray for the 2010 CWG.
Today, after our "match practices" in the CWG in New Delhi, can we be proud of the fact the team came 8th out of 10 teams? 1stly on record this is our worst performance in the CWGs and maybe this could be justified because MHF had reset the CWG to "match practice" status. The interesting aspect is that the international ranking is kept quite intact as the Commonwealth hockey nations who are in the top 12 ensured that Malaysia was of no threat to them as they all were above the 8th spot. Does this mean that our boys are lacking the skill and playing ability to to be in the top 10 in the world? A difficult question to answer as the lads were on "practice match" mode and as such they may not have given their best.
Now i wonder whether the team management have a better idea of the performance of the lads and the team that they can make the timely adjustments to achieve their set target of "gold" for Asian Games. This is important as they may want to reset their target for the Asian Games as they had done for the CWG. Is the gold medal target a figment of imagination of MHF or is it something that is achievable?
Following the CWG, where we had loss to India and Pakistan, itself may put us out of reach of achieving the "golden" position in the Asian Games. In the round robin in our Group at the Asian Games we have to contend with South Korea and China who are above us in world ranking. The other team in the Group is Oman. Beating China would take us to the semis but we must recognise that they have well over a billion population behind them on a home ground advantage. Should we get to the semis, then there lies the hope, and it is not insurmontable, to make it to the final. The other Group has India, Pakistan, Japan and Singapore. The probable semi-finalists emerging from that Group would probably be India and Pakistan, both of who we had "practice matches" with in the current CWG and lost 3-2 and 4-1 respectively.
In a nutshell, the 2 coaches must know what to do, now that they are aware of the performance level of their players and the team following the "practice matches" at the CWG. The coaches have about 3 to 4 weeks to fine tune the team and work towards the "incredible" target of gold set by MHF. A tall order but somehow it seems to have been stuck as the KPI for the team. Mind you i do not envy the position Stephen and Beng Hai are currently in. All we can do is to wish the Malaysian team the very best for Asian Games.