New hockey rule worries India

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> The International Hockey Federation's new penalty corner rule has got hockey teams worried, and more worried is the Indian team.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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New Delhi:

The International Hockey Federation's new penalty corner rule has got hockey teams worried, and more worried is the Indian team. The new rule is likely to increase the conversion rate of penalty corners, since it bars defenders from using their bodies to stop the ball from going in. The new penalty corner rule took the world of hockey by surprise, not because of the change in the rules but because it comes with just two months left for the Athens Olympics. Defending problems And while most nations would love to take advantage of this new rule, for India it could not have come at a worst possible time. Not only have India had problems converting penalty corners but the bigger problem has been defending them. In the last five major tournaments that India have played in 2004, they have conceded 77 penalty corners out of which 22 have been converted, a worrying figure of 35 per cent. That makes players like Pakistan's Sohail Abbas a real threat. In three games this year, he's scored 9 goals against India. The new rule which forbids a defender from rushing out to stop a penalty corner with his body, could make players like Abbas twice as dangerous. Focus on goalkeeper All that means is that the goalkeeper has lots more work to do. "With this new rule there is a lot of added responsibility on me because first one player would at least stop half the ball, that meant half my work was done. But now there is only a 25 per cent chance that the defender will stop the ball so the rest is my responsibility which has increased." said Indian goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan. Jugraj Singh had been India's most successful penalty corner converter in recent times. However he's unlikely to make it to Athens since he's yet to regain match fitness after his car crash last year. In his absence, India's penalty corner conversion has been poor. In the last five tournaments it's been 13 out of 57 for a percentage of 22, much lower than that of other teams. Expert help So while India struggles to find a replacement for Jugraj, other teams are going to have even higher conversion rates because of the new rule. "As far as the new rule is concerned there is advantage and disadvantage for the same team. When you attack you have the advantage but when you are defending then it is to your disadvantage," said Jugraj. Meanwhile, Sandeep Singh, the top scorer in the Asia Cup in Pakistan is being groomed as a replacement for Jugraj. However the Indian Hockey Federation is worried about the new rule, so much so that they have broken with tradition and finally decided to hire a foreign penalty corner expert in the build up to the Olympics.