Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

The penalty conversion rate has considerably gone down in recent times. In the ongoing FIH Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023 in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela, only 43 of the 239 penalty corners have been converted in 24 group-stage matches at a lower rate of 17.99%. It is down from 23.9% at the same stage during the last edition of the World Cup in 2018. In the last World Cup, 40 of 167 penalty corners were converted into goals.

As per several experts and analysts of the game, hockey has moved forward. Gone are the days when teams wishing to win tournaments had just one target--convert one-third of your penalty corners and you will stand a good chance of winning the game.

One of the main reasons behind the decline in the conversion rate is improved equipment. With cleats, shin, knee and mouth guards, gloves, groin cups and masks in place, runners now have the confidence to rush towards the drag-flickers.

“The difference now is the equipment is a lot better for defence. That gives more confidence to the first runner to be running in the line of the ball, minimising our angle to score,” said Argentina’s drag-flick great Gonzalo Peillat.

Indian vice-captain and Odisha hockey star Amit Rohidas is also of the same opinion. The fearless first rusher of the team is ready to take the blow of the ball travelling like a rocket on his body. With all kinds of modern guards in place, he is not afraid anymore.

Another reason behind the decline in PC conversion is improved fitness. Rushers are coming out faster to defend the drag flick. 

The last decade has seen the responsibility of defending a penalty corner shift from a goalkeeper to the first rusher. In most cases, while the goalkeeper’s focus is to protect the right side, the left is guarded by rushers.