Updated: February 18, 2016 12:05:04 pm
When Delhi Waveriders played their first home game a fortnight ago, coach Cedric de Souza had expressed his happiness about the crowd support at the Shivaji stadium, a change from the earlier home turf at the National stadium. However apart from the supportive crowd, Delhi have not had much to cheer about as, before Wednesday, they had lost three out of four games at home. Making matters worse was the home form of their ace drag flicker Rupinder Pal Singh. He had started the season strongly, scoring six goals in the first five matches.
However he had a shocker in his first home game against UP Wizards on February 1, missing six penalty corners as Delhi lost 4-6. This was followed by another off colour performance in a 5-2 loss against Punjab Warriors a day later.
After those two losses, Delhi’s form went downhill as they lost an additional two games, leaving their semi-final hopes in the balance.
And so, when Delhi played their last league game on Wednesday, they were in a do-or-die battle against the Kalinga Lancers. And they needed Rupinder to step up. And step up he did. After some early circle penetrations, Delhi were looking strong to score the first goal but Kalinga’s defence defied them. But 18 minutes after the start of the game, Delhi were awarded a penalty corner and Rupinder was back at his usual position.
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A powerful flick by him was blocked but Delhi were awarded another penalty corner. On this occasion, Rupinder did not miss and gave his team a 1-0 lead.
The crowd cheered and a green wave gripped the Shivaji stadium and the hopes of qualifying for the semis became stronger. And when the two teams began the game after half-time, Delhi outplayed the Lancers. In the 34th minute, Rupinder converted another PCs and a minute later, captain Simon Child made it 4-0 in Delhi’s favour.
The two goals from Rupinder and some spectacular saves from host goalkeeper Devon Manchester lifted the spirits of the team. And when the final whistle was blown to mark the end of the match which the home team won 6-0, the relief on Rupinder’s face was evident.
Before that UP match, Rupinder had led Delhi’s campaign in the league. But as soon as his form dipped, Delhi failed to win matches. They even thought of giving the task of drag-flicking to another player or to score field goals off corners.”He has a reputation as a drag-flicker not only in the team but in the country. To take afield goal on a penalty corner or asking someone else to take the PCs is not an easy decision,” Simon Child, the Delhi captain, had said.
On Wednesday, Rupinder was back at his best. While his misses against UP had cost his team the match and spoiled the homecoming, his game against Kalinga made him the crowd favourite before they leave for Ranchi to play the semi-final against Punjab on Saturday.
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