Drag-Flickers: A diminishing community in Indian hockey â€“ Things to do to produce the finest of the lot!
by Sudipta Biswas
Is Drag-flicks becoming the dying art of the hockey in the wake of technological enrichment of the game?
â€˜Drag-flickingâ€™ is one of the oldest arts of field hockey. For a millennium it has been considered as the cornerstone of the field hockey. But, drag-flicks are fast becoming the dying art of the hockey in the wake of technological enrichment of the game. Once â€˜drag-flickersâ€™ were regarded as the most important part of a team. So, experts feel the time has come to infuse a new life to the scoring technique before its relevance drops further. Once a stronghold of drag-flickers India now rarely produce astounding drag-flickers, the penalty corner specialists.
In the recently held 2018 Hockey World Cup, drag-flickers were seen struggling to score even after earning ample opportunities. In the history of field hockey, drag-flick had long been regarded as one of the most reliable ways to scoring goals, and the chance of scoring goals from it was optimum. But, the time has changed, oppositions found the way to tackle hockeyâ€™s most fascinating skill- drag-flicking by jamming the hockey sticks in one go to prevent the attacking team from finding the back of their net.
In Bhubaneswar, top-notch teams such as the Netherlands, Australia, Argentina and even the champions of the quadrennial event Belgium found it tough to find the back the oppositionsâ€™ net. Though, future of drag-flick looks dark it is not over yet. All it needs a technical and methodical improvement to stay relevant in the age of technology-driven hockey. Equipment plays a crucial role in helping hockey grow rapidly in new pockets such as Belgium, Argentina, Spain, France, Japan and South Korea who are now being reckoned as the new forces of contemporary hockey.
With advanced technologies, including the video analysis, modern coaching techniques and upgraded protective gear, in their ambit, they found it rather easy to learn the crafts of the sport to emerging as competitive sides. At the same time, these technological advancements made it tough for penalty corner specialists scoring from drag-flick. It is getting more and more difficult as the days passed.
If you have a deep-dive into the statistics of drag-flicks of 2018 Hockey World Cup, you will get a fair idea about the ineffectiveness of drag-flicks.
When the top-notch team likes- Australia (33.3 %), Argentina (41.6 %), Belgium (27.7 %) and Netherlands (16 %) have a rather forgettable conversion rate the hosts India struggled but managed to carry forward their legacy at 30.7 % penalty conversion rate. It is quite clear that the Men in Blue are away better than their superiors Orange Army and The Red Lions, the new world champions of hockey.
Losing Sandeep Singh and Jugraj Singh to accidents cast a shadow on Indian drag-flicking
But, when you have a look at the history at the subcontinent hockey you get to understand how the art of drag-flicking suffered a sharp fall. The 11-time Olympics medallist India was leading force in making the drag-flick a fascinating and productive art. It seemed with the fall of sub-continent hockey empire, consisted of India and Pakistan, the craft of drag-flick has also become an endangered component in the contemporary field hockey.
When drag-flick has been finding it hard to stay relevant in the wake of measured defending, India had to cope with a few disastrous incidents that left them in shamble. India lost some of the best drag-flickers in recent time. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that Sandeep Singh and Jugraj Singh were among the best drag-flickers of the world during their playing days. But, losing Sandeep, the lethal drag-flicker of his time, to freakish gunfire in the Shatabdi Express train in 2006 marked the end of heydays of Indian drag-flicking. A year before Sandeepâ€™s debut India lost possibly their fastest hockey player Jugraj Singh to a bizarre car accident. The accidents not only put the curtain on their illustrious careers but also cast a shadow on Indiaâ€™s renowned skill- drag-flicking.
No doubt, they were great losses to the country. These unfortunate incidents forced to hang their hockey sticks when they were at the peak of their career. There was no immediate replacement for them and India has still been struggling to find a drag-flicker of their class. Of late, Rupinder Pal Singh emerged as an astonishing drag-flicker. But, his injury before the World Cup made India found replacements in three young drag-flickers Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohitdas and Varun Kumar. They are being considered as the true heir of Jugraj Singh, Sandeep Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh. But, their conversion rate is very poor, recording just 30.7 per cent. Hence, they have to go a long way to reach their predecessorsâ€™ level. With the time in his favour, they have a good chance to adapt to the skills of drag-flicking.
Throwing his observation on the concern former India international Sandeep said, â€œIt is getting tougher and tougher to score from drag-flicks nowadays because every team’s defence has got smarter. With protective gears in place, the first runners are not afraid today to rush in and take a hit.â€�
â€œWe need variations, variations in not just attempt but in flickers’ attempts as well. I mean a flicker needs to use different angles, pace to keep the opposing defence guessing,â€� he further added.
Former drag-flicker, Chris Ciriello, 2014 World Cup winning hero of Australia, is the current video analyst of Indian menâ€™s hockey team, believed the usage of protective gears made defenders fearless now while defending penalty corners which gave them a better success rate in blocking.
“Defending a penalty corner is safe now because of different types of equipment. The guys wear ice hockey gloves, thicker knee pads and shin pads. So the risk of injuries has subsided and the rushers have become fearless,” Ciriello said.
But, most of the former players and coaches are of the opinion that drag-flick still holds the key when it comes to scoring from the penalty corner. It is still an integral part of hockey. Only things required is to change the style of execution and swift application of skills to improve the conversion rate.
When other teams have been finding it hard to score from penalty corner Argentinaâ€™s Gonzalo Peillat is an exception. His power and accuracy helped him to enjoy an overwhelming success when it comes to scoring from drag-flick.
Engage former expert drag-flickers with budding starsÂ
Former Arjuna awardee Indian defender Dilip Tirkey believed the current Indian team has a good future. With a lot of youngsters in the squad coach Harendra Singh has a strong potential to take Indian hockey to a new height.
â€œThe coach has done well. Definitely, there has been a development in the standards of coaching,â€� Tirkey said.
In order to bring back those golden days of drag-flicking in Indian hockey, Hockey India has to engage expert drag-flickers of India with academies to produce world-class penalty corner specialists. At this moment, India has a few academies where players are still trying out to be drag-flickers. Unless planned measures are being taken to produce world-class drag-flickers the gone days would not return to Indian hockey. Only scientific initiatives could only help India to acquire outstanding penalty corner specialists who could revitalize the dying art of drag-flicking. With a rich legacy at stock, India only requires to set up a panel of former drag-flickers in order to nurture the young breed of drag-flickers. If youngsters emerge as an improved unit Indiaâ€™s penalty corner conversion rate will see a sharp rise in numbers. That is the only way forward for the 1975 Hockey World Cup champions.
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Source: Matchday Frolics