With hard labored third place finish in World Hockey League in Raipur, India ended a long wait of a podium finish in World Hockey at International level. Their last medal finish came 33 years ago in Champions Trophy when they finished third after defeating arch rivals Pakistan 5-4 at Amstelveen.
India started the note on a worst possible way. In the opening game, they fell to the lowest ranked team of the pool, Argentina. They conceded last minute goal by PC which added insult to their injury. Against GER, they managed a draw. In 47’ of the game, Akashdeep opened the scoring for the team in the tournament. Some were hoping for a miracle but nothing happened against NED in last league game.
It came down to QF against mighty GBR. India had not defeated team GBR since 1985. Well, here, the team played their best Hockey. The team never came in pressure and made a place in SF. Against Belgium, India lost the battle, but their head were held high. They outplayed winners in all departments but alas, sometimes a good team loses the game.
In 3rd/4th place thriller, 5 goals were scored in last 13 minutes by both teams. In the penalty shootout, heart beats were high but men in blues survived the test against best GK of the tournament, Jack Stockman.
Most of the teams tried new talents and rested stars for this tournament. Chris Cirello, Butterini, Desmond Abbot (AUS), Ashley Jackson (GBR) were the notable absentee. Despite this, Australia proved too hot to handle. Graham Reid is in large big shoes of Ric Charlsworth and did all justice to the coach’s job. AUS took 13 shots in the first half in the game against NED. It is an example to prove their killer stint.
Among the foreign talents, Van der veerden was evergreen. Jeremy Dwyer was adjudged player of the tournament by an eminent jury. At the age of 36, he is still playing his best hockey which is a delight to all the Hockey lovers around the world. Gonzalo Palliet of ARG, as was expected, scored max goals in the tournament. He is ‘Sohail Abbas’ of Argentina. Future of ARG hockey depends a lot on his young shoulders. Tim Boon, costliest player of HIL proved his worth for BEL.
Sreejesh is absolutely in top 3 of the world. He padded after taking 3 pain killers in bronze medal match. It shows his commitment and in the end, it proved card of the ace. If Sreejesh is rock then Birendra Lakra is a wall in defence. Chiklingsana was a good supporter for him. Sardar is best in both defence and midfield. Upfront, Akashdeep is continuing to provide crucial goals in crucial times. Ramandeep lost his footing on a few instances. Manpreet provided good passes. Danish Mujtaba and Amir Khan (Allahabad Boys) made thumping return to the national squad. Danish showed a lot of maturity in supporting midfield, defence and attack. Raghunath and Rupinder were good as drag-flickers.
Sansarpur lad Jasjit couldn’t provide the touch he showed at Belgium. Mandeep Singh is waiting in the wings. Rolent Oltmens has filled the coaching gap quite well and glued the team to perfection. Two areas desire attention. First, despite having a lot of ball possession in the opposition half, India couldn’t make a lot of circle penetration and shots on goal. Second is conceding some cheap penalty corner. Next year, India will lock horns with big shots in Argentina in Champions trophy. Most of the teams will experiment there and India can take a leaf out of their books. Well, a lot of silver linings are there for Rio 16. Chak de India.
Author- Vijay Anand