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There was method in India's midfield
October 11, 2004
The India-Pakistan hockey series is over, but a win in the last match at least ended the series on a positive note for the Indians. It was a good 2-0 victory, only their second in the eight-match series, which they lost 2-4.
It was great to see Dilip Tirkey back to lead the team. Tirkey has been a good motivator for the side and his own performance has shown tremendous upward movement in the past couple of years. As the senior man, he shows a lot of maturity and is able to get the best out of the side. He is indeed an asset in the defence and when he is leading the team looks more purposeful.
In their two previous encounters in Hyderabad, India had beaten Pakistan and this seemed to charge the team up even before the last match began. India had beaten Pakistan in the league and final in the Afro-Asian Games last year.
For a change, the Indians used both their flanks effectively. They played with better combination, which showed them to be a unit, rather than disjointed pieces as has been in some past matches. There was a method in the way the midfield and forwardline functioned. And the results showed their effort.
While there is no denying there is talent in the side, in terms of overall performance it lacks consistency. That could be because of variety of reasons, including fitness and injuries.
Coming back to the Hyderabad match, Sandeep Michael scored first after exerting a lot of pressure on the Pakistani defence. It was Tushar Khandekar who started the move with a good run on the left flank. Combining with Vikram Pillay, the ball finally came to Michael, who scored with a deflection after Pillay had a shy.
Khandekar himself added the second goal to make it 2-0. Prabodh Tirkey went on a solo run following a counter attack and he laid the ball for Khandekar, who did the needful.
There were some more chances for India, but they did not materialize into goals.
On the other hand, even though Indian goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza and the defence, led by Tirkey, did a great job, it seemed Pakistan were short on motivation.
Probably, they felt their job was already done after the series had been won. It is a failing that can cost them in future, because no team can afford to let another team gain psychological advantage even in an inconsequential match.
From India's point of view, whenever they meet Pakistan next, they will go in with the positive feeling of having won the previous clash.
The new world record holder for maximum goals in international hockey, Sohail Abbas, was not able to add to his tally. Pakistan got six penalty-corners and all were wasted.
To some extent, the credit for that should go to Adrian D'Souza, who has been terrific throughout the year. He charged out to stop Abbas and, in the bargain, it also cost him a green card for charging out too soon. But he had saved the citadel and in the end that is what counts.
Finally, it was nice to see such camaraderie between the two teams.
The teams formed a kind of an umbrella as Sohail Abbas walked out for the final match of the series, which was held after a gap of five years. Indeed, it has been a great series, even though one can question the timing of it. But having some hockey is better than not having any.