May 27 2020
India start in style(hockey)
16 January 2012

When stand-in captain Sardar Singh tapped in India’s third goal in the 28th minute, it was the first against his name in almost four years. But more than anything else, it only proved why the hardworking 25-year-old remains the heart of this Indian hockey team that seeks a ticket for the London Olympics.

On Monday, India beat South Africa 4-0 in the first of their five-match series and though the rustiness was evident in both teams, the Indians seem to be finally coming to terms with the all-out attacking game that coach Michael Nobbs has been advocating since taking charge last year. Sardar, making himself available near the left post to finish the move that SV Sunil started on the right flank, was only an affirmation of the same philosophy.

Nobbs said after the match that the scoreline does not indicate the full story, and he was right. The number of clear chances that India squandered outnumbered the ones that counted two to one. With two debutants earning their India caps in the match — full-back Harbir Singh and striker SK Uthappa — the Indians stepped on the gas straight away and the first chance came in the 4th minute when Chinglensana, playing only his second international tournament, shot out from close range.

Thereafter, it was all about India, who would have been completely outplayed had the field of play been all about physical strength. That Nobbs and trainer David John have been insisting on the Indians having to beef up is old news; but their first international competition at home since Nobbs took over only highlighted how much is yet to be done on that front. On the other hand, the fitness of the team has definitely gone up, not withstanding the absence of several key members from this series due to injuries, and since skills were an equally important part of the game, the Indians came out tops. 



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