Kolkata, Oct 31 (IANS) Former national hockey team stars on Monday lauded the Indian team for winning the Asian Champions Trophy (ACT), defeating their arch-rivals in the sport Pakistan in final.
India’s hockey team on Diwali gifted the country its second Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament title after beating Pakistan 3-2 in the final at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan, Malaysia, on Sunday.
India’s two second-half goals from Rupinder Pal Singh (18th minute) and Affan Yousuf (23rd) were cancelled out by Aleem Bilal (26th) and Ali Shan (38th), but Nikkin Thimmaiah (51st) scored the winner for the reigning Asian Games champions.
In the third-place match, hosts Malaysia got their fourth bronze medal as they edged out south Korea via penalty shootout.
Amid the diplomatic feud between the two countries who are erstwhile hockey masters, the result of the match bore much more significance than the title.
Praising the Indian team for their performance, former national hockey team stars Gurbux Singh and Dhanraj Pillay said now the aim should be beating more accomplished teams at the world level.
“We need to fight against teams like Australia, Germany and the Netherlands. Also upcoming forces like Belgium (who beat India in the quarter-final of the Rio Olympics) and Argentina need to be quelled in order to take the next step,” former India captain Pillay told IANS on Monday.
Gurbux, part of India’s 1964 Olympics gold medal winning side, echoed Pillay, saying the aim should now be to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup. India last won a World Cup in 1975 in Malaysia.
“World Cup should be our next target. After one year the Champions Trophy will stop and will be replaced by (Global) World League. We have been dominating Asia but it is time to look beyond that. We won a World Cup way back in 1975 and after that we have failed to put up an impressive performance on the world stage,” Gurbux said.
India were world beaters at one point, winning 11 medals in 12 Olympics between 1920 and 1980.
Rupinder Pal Singh, who finished as the highest scorer, converted 11 penalty corners. Field goals were though at a premium during the tournament. Both Pillay and Gurbux expressed their concern with Pillay going to the extent of saying that selfish play is the reason for the drought inside the penalty area.
“The players are not being utilised enough. There is a lot of individuality. When we used to play, there was nothing of this sort between me and Gagan Ajit Singh or Deepak Thakur.”
“I urge players to understand a simple fact that at the end of the day it is a team sport. It should not matter if Ramandeep (Singh) is scoring or Nikkin (Thimmmaiah) is scoring,” Dhanraj said.
Gurbux added, “The forward line needs to improve in scoring field goals. Although there were field goals in the final, I don’t see a lot of goals from open play.”
“We have not conceded late goals which is a good sign. I have always said conceding goals is a worrying factor for us. Fitness is something that the Indian team has worked on a lot and is a very good aspect.”
Pillay, who has been vocal about upcoming players needing financial support, shed light on the junior team beating Spain 3-1 in a four-nation Invitational Tournament ahead of the Junior World Cup in November in Lucknow, saying Hockey India and the central government have been supporting the youth teams a lot lately, and this is very important.
“Narinder Batra (Hockey India President) is going to contest for FIH (International Hockey Federation) presidency on November 12 and that is a very good sign for the state of affairs in India,” he said.
“Of late, HI has supported the players a lot and so has the government. India junior team’s performances in Valencia have been heartening and the junior World Cup in Lucknow is of utmost importance.”
Former India striker Jagbir Singh also praised the Indian team.
“#ACT2016, Congratulations #hockeyindia Liked your confidence,attitude and dominance. Asian hockey can feel the growing gap amongst teams,” Jagbir tweeted on Monday.