may well have played a part in India’s victory over the World Champions in the
first match, but fortune favours the brave and notwithstanding a defeat to
Belgium in the second encounter of the Pro League, the Indians walked off the
Kalinga pitch with their heads held high.
The gritty 2-1 win in Match 1 was a sight to behold but the Indians kept Belgium at bay, on February 9, as well before going down 2-3 which speaks volumes about the tenacity of a team that looks quite capable now of making Pro League history.
It was a moment to cherish for the Indian hockey team and their ardent fans, on February 8 evening, as Manpreet Singh and co. emerged victorious against the best hockey team in the world.
thing to defeat a half-strength Belgian outfit as part of a tour as the Indians
did last year – but, quite another to outshine the marauding Red Lions fresh
from victories over Australia and New Zealand over the last couple of weeks.
Belgians may argue that the ball meandered tantalizingly close the Indian goal
and may have crossed the line on another day, it wasn’t just fate that came
into play amidst the downpour at Kalinga.
custodians – a seasoned veteran and an upcoming star stretched, dived, leaned
and took many a body blow to ensure that the Indians ended up on the winning
side and moved up a slot in the world rankings at least for the time being.
has done it before while Krishan Pathak showed us why he is just the one who is
most capable of filling the stalwart’s shoes with some vital goalmouth saves.
Kumar Pal darted in and around the Belgian circle like an arrow surprising the
defence with his speed and guile which allowed the senior strikers to move up
runners charged down the Belgian drag-flickers time and again as a result of
which the visitors were unable to convert 12 of the 13 PCs they earned, and the
end result could have been dramatically different if Shane McLeod’s team had
done better with the short corners.
the Indians took the field as the World No. 4 side and the spring in their step
was evident even before the opening whistle sounded.
going down by an early goal, the Indians never allowed Belgium to dominate the
proceedings with Surender Kumar and Lalit Upadhyay giving us a glimpse of their
impeccable stick skills.
outstanding defensive work saved Belgium the blushes in Match 2 after the
Indians managed 28 circle entries and unleashed 11 shots on goal as compared to
the Belgians who engineered 19 circle entries and managed to fire 9 shots on
the stats were heavily loaded in Belgium’s favour in Match 1 but the result
went India’s way.
What was particularly
encouraging from India’s point of view was the manner in which the team fought
as a unit and attacked the opposition with a sense of purpose without being
cowed down for the entire duration of both matches.
Reid’s boys displayed without a shadow of a doubt that the wins against the
Dutch were no flash in the pan and that the team is clicking as a whole.
accident or design, the Pro League schedule involves India playing the top
three teams in the world one after the other at home and a similar result
against Australia will do wonders for India’s campaign.
seems impossible, at the moment, for an aggressive and cohesive Indian squad
that seems intent on making an early impression ahead of a busy Pro League
season which precedes Tokyo 2020.