Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

India conjure winning script against Olympic champions

Hockey India players celebrates their win over Germany in the Hockey League Classification match in New Delhi on Friday. PTI Photo
Written by Jonathan Selvaraj | New Delhi | Posted: January 18, 2014 4:26 am | Updated: January 18, 2014 4:46 pm

It probably could not have been scripted better. India have yet to win a match in the Hero Hockey World League. They are playing Olympic Champions and World No.1 Germany, and are trailing 2-0 after five minutes.

They go into the first half 3-1 down. They fight back to lead 4-3, before Germany levels the scores again. With less than a minute to go, India earn a penalty corner.

They wait for the clock to run out. India have been notoriously poor in PC conversions, scoring only two in five games. Someone, however, forgot to mention that stat to Rupinderpal Singh. The push is fast, the stop is clean. He calmly slots it in. The whistle blows for the last time and it ends 5-4 to India. The Germans appeal and refer, claiming the ball has been stopped from inside the circle. It hasn’t and the result stands.

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If you are a cynic, you could argue: no, it could have been scripted better. India could be playing a semifinal instead of cheering a result in a random classification game.

A cynic is unlikely to be a hockey fan in India though.

Anyway it’s been five years since India beat Germany in a hockey match of any kind. If you want to limit your search to an official FIH game, you will have to dial the clock back nine years to the Champions Trophy in December 2004 when India won 3-1.

It is perhaps appropriate that Rupinderpal scores the last goal and gets mobbed by his teammates. The player of the match award may have gone to Mandeep Singh for his three goals but his taller teammate must have run him very close for that oversized cheque.

Poor start

Five minutes into the game, the fans, on a bitterly cold Friday afternoon, are glumly staring at a scoreboard that reads: Germany 2, India zilch. Thilo Stralkowski has confidently smashed in a drag flick to the center of the net, two minutes after Oliver Korn taps in a deflection. Germany aren’t used to finishing outside the medals and it seems India will have to bear the brunt of their frustration. Sardar Singh has switched to a defensive role but the move is meant to be anything but defensive.

Suddenly you spy Mandeep Singh getting a brilliant pass. He beats his marker and scores from an incredibly tight angle. The pass has come down the center from Rupinderpal. 2-1 to India.

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India, probably, can thank Michael Nobbs a bit. The former Australian coach first utilised Rupinderpal Singh in a center-forward role, in the Lanco Super 9’s in Australia.  Rupinderpal, who has since been slotted in as the defender/drag-flick expert, showed his versatility. As if he wants to prove he hasn’t forgotten old tricks, he continued…

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