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The plan to confuse opponents worked: Ashok Kumar

The Indian men excelled at penalty corners during their memorable bronze medal run at the Tokyo Olympics

A penalty corner combines delicate touch and accuracy with brutal power. In other words, it is a tango of a ballet and a boxer’s sledgehammer blow.

The Indian men excelled at penalty corners during their memorable bronze medal run at the Tokyo Olympics.

The side’s video analyst C. Ashok Kumar told The Hindu, “Everyone knew Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet took our penalty corners. But, by adding Varun Kumar and Amit Rohidas to our list of potent penalty-corner takers, we managed to confuse our opponents. They could not plan.

“Our penalty corners had speed, accuracy and power. We tried different variations and were quick on rebounds,” he added.

Having worked with the men’s and women’s junior National teams, the 30-year-old Ashok, a defender who represented Nilgiris in hockey apart from being a qualified umpire, joined the senior team in 2019.

Ashok said the role of the “first rusher” was most crucial in stopping penalty corners. “He has to give the drag-flicker as little time as possible. Then, of course, our goalkeeper Sreejesh was outstanding.”

Providing an insight into the team’s commitment, Ashok said, “I would be off every morning at 7 a.m. and would return to the room late. We had to watch all the matches, well past midnight. Even then, our senior players would be waiting for me to give inputs and watch the videos of our opponents.

“Britain had two players who took penalty corners and each one would hit to a different part of the cage. I told Sreejesh about this ahead of the quarterfinal and it worked.”

The video analyst said he had one-on-one sessions with the players on strategy. “The weather was hot and humid and we could not go all out in those conditions. We had to hold the ball,” said Ashok.

He felt that the team erred by going defensive after having the better of the exchanges till half-time against Belgium in the semifinal. Ashok was, however, relieved that the side picked itself up for the bronze playoff.

“We were spot on with our tactics against Germany. Whenever they raised the tempo and attempted to play fast hockey, we slowed down the game. This denied them rhythm while we could still hit them on the break.”

The man from Nilgiris was delighted that Indian hockey reached great heights in Tokyo.

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