World Cup debacle acted as spur: Raghu

World Cup debacle acted as spur: Raghu

The Karnataka component of the Commonwealth Games silver-medal winning Indian hockey team arrived home to a warm reception here on Tuesday.

Strikers S V Sunil and Nikkin Thimmaiah, defender V R Raghunath and coach Jude Felix touched base at the Kempegowda International Airport in the evening along with national team fullback Birender Lakra where they were welcomed by Hockey Karnataka Secretary AB Subbaiah, officials from Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports (DYES) and State hockey players.

Former vice-captain and one of the senior players in the side, Raghunath, felt the dismal show at the World Cup spurred them to strive higher at Glasgow. “After the World Cup failure, we have regrouped well and put up an improved show. We have become mentally stronger. The World Cup failure in the Netherlands hurt us but we’ve made a strong comeback.

“We showed our mettle against New Zealand in the semifinals. Trailing twice, we never lost confidence and always believed in ourselves. This silver medal will serve as a morale booster for us to win the Asian Games and secure a berth for the 2016 Rio (de Janeiro) Olympics,” added the drag-flicker.

Felix, who joined chief coach Terry Walsh’s staff a few months earlier, said the team needs to play top teams regularly to become stronger. “We should play a lot of top European teams and Australia more regularly.

We should also be hosting a lot of tournaments in India as it will help our boys understand the strategies and mindset of other teams besides improving our own. This will help India in the long run. Even though the team failed in the final against Australia, I am satisfied with the performance.”

Having missed the World Cup due to injury, young striker Thimmaiah felt the CWG was a great learning experience. “Playing this tournament was a learning experience having missed the World Cup. I picked up several positives playing against tough teams like New Zealand and Australia.”

Sunil too was pleased with the silver medal show. “We had earned a reputation for conceding last-minute goals. We worked specifically on that aspect. We learnt to control the proceedings. The video analysis too has helped us improve. Overall our defence and attacking has improved.”

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