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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
Outlook.com

Mission Olympia

After Amstelveen and Kuala Lumpur, these Men in Blue too are aiming high Updates

Mission Olympia
AP
Mission Olympia
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
If Jugraj Singh and Devesh Chauhan were the stars of India's campaign at the Champions Trophy in Amstelveen, Sandeep Michael and Ignace Tirkey stood out at the Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur. Ignace, rather low-key in Holland, led the Adivasi trio—Dilip Tirkey and Bimal Lakra are other two—and they could well be the core of future Indian teams. Add to these the flashy Gagan Ajit Singh, speedy Prabhjot Singh, mercurial veteran Dhanraj Pillay, and of course, the dependable Devesh Chauhan under the bar. Even as other teams like Pakistan, Germany and Australia are still scouting for the right mix of youth and experience, India may well have found the perfect combination for the Olympic qualifiers in Madrid next March, and even for the Athens Olympics. This Indian team, more than any other before them in recent memory, can bring India its first Olympic hockey medal since 1980. They have it all—consistency, perhaps, being the only missing ingredient. The maiden Asia Cup title also carried India into the 2006 World Cup to be held in Monchengladbach, Germany.

If only Jugraj can make a comeback—though it's difficult to see that happen in a hurry, at least before the Olympic qualifiers—the Indians will be the team to watch out for in 2004. The absence of a drag-flick expert like Jugraj was obvious in Kuala Lumpur, but as it always happens, this handicap brought out the best in some others in the team like Dilip Tirkey, who handled the penalty corners well.

Coach Rajinder Singh too seemed to have learnt from his mistakes in Amstelveen. He was quite hesitant about using rolling substitutions in Champions Trophy. In KL, he used his bench strength very effectively and this kept the team fairly fresh even in the closing stages of a match—an Indian team scoring twice in the last two minutes of an important match like the final of a tournament is indeed a...
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