October 22, 2001

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Aussie columnists hail Indian skills

Paritosh Parasher

Australian sports columnists paid rich tributes to Indian skills on Monday, a day after India won the junior men's hockey World Cup in the Tasmanian capital of Hobart.

Their emphatic 6-1 win over Argentina at the Tasmania Hockey Centre on Sunday seems to have heralded a new style of playing hockey for the Indians.

The team was also adjudged the best "attacking" team in the tournament by various columnists.

Almost every outing in the junior World Cup saw Indians earning compliments for playing 'powerhouse hockey' which has been hitherto associated with the strongly built Europeans and not the teams from Asia or Latin America.

Unlike Indians, hockey is not a favourite with the otherwise sports crazy nation of Australia. There was not much coverage in the mainstream Australian media, so much so that Australian hockey followers may have wondered whether the World Cup was being played in their country.

There was a total blackout from the electronic media while only regional newspapers from the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corporation covered the event.

But whatever little media coverage the superbly organised tournament managed to get, Indians hogged the major part of it.

A number of fine performances by the Indian stick wielders in Hobart saw them being showered with flattering comments like "super-slick skills," "abundance of flair" and for displaying "explosive pace".

After the advent of the artificial turf, the performance of Indian hockey has declined severely. The Indians have not managed to win much over two decades except a gold in the boycott ridden 1980 Moscow Olympics and an Asian Games gold in 1998.

Incidentally, the current coach of the Indian boys, Rajinder Singh, was the highest goal-scorer at 1982 senior World Cup in Bombay.

The team's attacking, aggressive hockey saw the "fleet-footed" Indians getting the maximum number of goals for any team as they tallied for 31 goals.

They blasted the Latino defence to smithereens on Sunday with their can-do spirit and also far better strategies to score no less than six goals. Before the final encounter Argentina had conceded just eight goals in the whole tournament.

Though media reports frequently praised the Indian side for their flair and attacking game, few individuals from this team ever got more compliments than due. The left side striker Prabhjot Singh was credited with blasting his way through many defences with his "blistering" speed.

Deepak Thakur, the highest scorer of the tournament with 10 goals to his credit, was singled out in almost every match for his dazzling stick work and "an ability to find space in the most crowded defences."

The skipper of the team, Gagan Ajit Singh, also got praise for possessing the same qualities. The defender Jugraj Singh has already been crowned the emerging "penalty-corner scoring messiah" for the Indians. His "rock like presence" in the defence saved a number of occasions for the newly crowned world champions.

But Indians also got some brickbats from the media and experts for lacking the right temperament in testing situations.

They were frequently penalised in the semi-final against Germany for wasting time in the second half. The Indian boys were reported to have unnecessarily pushed the panic buttons in the second half after leading the European powerhouse team 3-0 in the first part.

The facile win against the supposedly best defensive side, Argentina, would also mean that India would now stick to their aggressive, in-your-face style of hockey bringing back the memories of the day when Indians ruled the hockey turfs.

Experts feel it would now be a matter of time before the senior hockey team also switches to the 'Eurasian' style, which is a hybrid of the classical Indian skilful hockey and the explosive brand practised on the European astro-turfs.

Indo-Asian News Service

Complete Coverage: 7th Junior Men's World Cup 2001

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