Wrapping up practice, Amit Rohidas rolled down his socks, removed the shin guard to show bruises and bruises, the result for India’s first rusher in a decade-long career. Undaunted by the ball traveling towards him like a bullet during penalty corners (PC), India’s vice-captain will continue to play his part like other rushers around the world.
The rate of penalty corner conversions has been decreasing over the years compared to the 1990s, 2000s or even the early 2010s. Hockey has moved on from a time when teams wanting to win tournaments had only one goal: replace one-third of your PCs and you’d have a good chance of winning.
Better equipment is part of the reason. With cleats, shin, knee and mouth guards, gloves, groin cups and masks, runners now have the confidence to step up to drag flickers. “The difference now is that the tools are much better for defense. It gives more confidence to the first runner running down the line of the ball, reducing our angle of score,” drag flick great Gonzalo Pilate. Said, who was the top scorer when Argentina won gold in Rio 2016. He now plays for Germany.
Better fitness is another thing. That means rushers are coming out faster. The past decade has seen responsibility for defending PC shift to the rusher before the goalkeeper. In most cases, while the goalie’s focus is on protecting the right side, the left side is protecting the rushers.
In the ongoing World Cup, after 24 group stage matches, only 43 out of 239 penalty corners have been converted at a rate of 17.99%. This is down from 23.9 per cent at the same stage in the 2018 World Cup when 40 of 167 goals resulted.
But drag flickers and experts are confident that a solution will be found. “We need to study a lot about defense, what goalkeepers do, what runners do, what positions are available to score goals, how to manipulate the opponent,” the 2014 World Cup top scorer Pilate said.
Data and video analysis are heavily emphasized today to be aware of the peripheral vision positions of rushers and flickers. “We study the techniques, the running patterns of the rushers, how they approach the ball and how to find the loopholes so that when you pull, you get more time,” said Harmanpreet Singh, Indian captain and the team’s primary PC. The expert said.
Harmanpreet highlighted the importance of accuracy and speed before reaching the trapper. “The quicker we get to the ball, the more time we get. We try to learn how to do things around the rusher, how to beat the rusher first, how to get time and gaps. ,” They said.
Although still low, conversion rates have seen a gradual increase over the tournament: from 10.7% in the first two days to 17.99% after the group stages. “The percentage is still not as high as you would expect but it will increase. Normally for a tournament it might be 15-20% but for a winning team it can be as high as 30%, ” said the great Rick Charlesworth, who coached Australia to the 2010 and 2014 World Cup titles.
To counter rushers, teams make adjustments. If a team has two or more world-class rushers, such as Australia’s Blake Gowers and Jeremy Hayward and Belgium’s Alexander Hendricks and Loic Loipart, teams can confuse the first rusher. While variations come in handy, it also helps if flickers take less time. “There are always solutions that teams are working on. As the tournament goes on, we will see them perform better. Don’t forget that this is a good opportunity to score goals,” Charlesworth said. said
One of the art’s pioneers and greatest connoisseurs, Bram Lomans was the lynchpin of the Dutch team that won the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. He also guided the Netherlands to the World Cup crown in 1998. The 47-year-old worked with Indian PC experts in December, helping Harmanpreet and co devise ways to get around the rushers.
“I tried to speed them up. We were trying to get them to work better against defenders. We identified which player is good at which type of flick. There are some different techniques that help. You can do different things,” said Lowmans, who also coached Online India’s Drag Flickers during Covid-19.
Ditchman said the drop conversion rate will increase as drag flickers “play with different holes, different methods or more variations.” It doesn’t happen automatically, said Lomans, who won the Champions Trophy in 2002 and 2003. “There has to be a lot of analysis by the coaching staff and the players need to know where the possibilities are.”
Normally, during a penalty corner, four rushers and a goalkeeper work together to stop the ball. While the goal of two rushers is to run as fast as possible to the fumble taker – usually two standing above the striking circle – two stay behind to assist the goal.
“If you have two guys running all the way, one stays close to the goalkeeper, that means you only have one defender to avoid. And you always have seven attackers. If you have two rushers can leave behind, then you have a great chance to score and that can be through a deflection or giving the ball to someone else who can flick it in. It’s like a game of chess – if They do it, so you can do it,” Lomans said.
Lomans was also not concerned about the conversion rate. “It’s not the most important thing. It’s more about being good at the right time than getting the right percentage. I’ve never been too worried about the conversion rate but the moments you score, “They said.
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