Sydney and DelhiAgony & ecstasy

Cricketers lose; hockey men win

Agony in Sydney in the evening turned to delight in New Delhi by night. The controversial circumstances under which India went down to Australia in their penultimate match of the triangular cricket series on Sunday were quickly forgotten as Indian hockey took one small step towards reliving its glory days.

hoCELEBRATION TIME: Sandeep Singh celebrates a goal against France during the London Olympic Qualifying men hockey match in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI The World Cup winners’ 87-run loss to the world’s number one one-day side has all but ended Indian interest in the tri-series. However, by swatting France aside 8-1 in a remarkably lop-sided final of the Olympic Qualifiers at the Major Dhyan Chand National stadium, the national hockey side has re-established its tryst with the Olympic Games.

The eight-time Olympic gold medallists failed to make the 2008 Beijing Games after losing to Britain in the qualifying competition in Chile. This time around, pitted against relatively lightweight teams and buoyed by vociferous support from a passionate home crowd, the Indians took the qualifiers by storm, riding on the brilliance of ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh.

Sandeep scored five goals in the final alone and finished as the tournament’s highest-scorer with 16 stunning goals to announce his arrival as one of the most feared penalty-corner specialists in world hockey. However, there was more to India than Sandeep alone.

Coach Michael Nobbs has fused the best of attacking Indian hockey with a common-sense, pragmatic approach that was missing in the past.

The Australian has been a wonderful influence on the young team, encouraging the boys to come out of their shells and express themselves on the field. The results have been all too obvious.

In six games in the qualifiers, the Indians thundered in 44 goals, a tribute to their aggressive instincts even if the field wasn’t exactly jaw-dropping. Nobbs will be aware that at the Olympics, the Australians the Dutch and the Germans, among others, will pose vastly different and demanding challenges. For now, though, it’s celebration time!

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