Before the Indian men’s hockey team left for the Asian Games the team captain Sardar Singh had stated that the team would do well in the tournament. However, after how the team had performed in the recent times including the Commonwealth Games that preceded this tournament most sports fans could have been forgiven for thinking that he was just paying lip service. In the end however, the team was able to prove its detractors and doubters wrong and lift the gold medal that will also enable them to play in the upcoming Olympics that are supposed to take place in Rio during 2016.
What perhaps made the victory sweeter for all was the fact that this was achieved against Pakistan that has been a traditional rival for India in the sporting arena. The final score of 4-2 indicates how closely the match was fought. With this triumph India has also been able to bring to an end a 16-year long wait for the highest honors in Asian Games hockey. It was at Bangkok 1998 that India last tasted glory in Asian Games hockey. This also happens to be the third time that the Indian team has won a gold medal at the Asian Games. In the game that lasted 60 minutes none could in fact guess the outcome.
How the defence was broken
The match took place at Seonhak Hockey Stadium and at the end of the regulation time the score was tied at 1 each. Muhammad Rizwan Sr. was the first man to score in the game when he breached India’s defence on behalf of Pakistan. The goal came during the 3rd minute. The pass for the goal came from Shafqat Rasool who charged down the right wing and helped Rizwan who had not been marked till then. This goal basically marked the defensive frailty of India at that point of time. However, India was undaunted and fought back to even the score-line by Kothajit Singh who scored during the 27th minute. After that goal both the teams created a number of chances but in the end nothing came of it.
When the penalties were taken Akashdeep Singh, Birendra Lakhra, Rupinderpal Singh and Dharamvir Singh converted their chances while Manpreet Singh was unable to do so. However, the real credit should be given to PR Sreejesh, the goalkeeper and vice captain for India who brought off stunning saves against Muhammad Umar Butta and Abdul Haseem Khan. Shafqat Rasool and Muhammad Waqas were the ones to get on the score-line for Pakistan.
Speed made the match enjoyable
The two teams played the game in different ways with Pakistan placing a lot more emphasis on counter-attacks. India was more attacking on the other side and it was basically their speed of attacks that made the match even more enjoyable. There was also some angry interactions between players of both teams in the final moments of the first quarter when a Pakistani player received an injury.
It remains to be seen what effect this win has on Indian team. The scepticism stems from the fact that in the past the team has been highly inconsistent – winning well and then following it with a prolonged period of insipidity.
This Asian Games triumph is surely a memorable achievement but it needs to be remembered that the field is hardly competitive considering Pakistan is the only other team that competes at the world level in hockey. However, this victory also proves that the team has it to bounce back. It has shown the ability and now needs to add some steel to the same.