After Junior's title, India eyeing 2002 World Cup

After the stupendous Junior World Cup Hockey victory, coach Rajinder Singh is now eyeing the coveted title for the senior team.

updated: February 25, 2007 08:37 IST
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After the stupendous Junior World Cup Hockey victory, coach Rajinder Singh is now eyeing the coveted title for the senior team - a hope that could well have been dismissed as wishful thinking even a few days ago. Though a little reluctant to reveal his plans, the coach could not help but admit India did have a chance at the 2002 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur. "We can win the World Cup but the team needs to focus and I hope we can achieve what Indian hockey has been trying to since the 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medal," the coach said as the victorious team prepared to leave for home. Rajinder Singh knows he has a talented bunch but years of losses can make even the most optimist of all reluctant to talk of success. But the Junior World Cup triumph has dared everyone involved to dream once again because with the victory has come confidence - a huge psychological gain no doubt. Till Saturday, Deepak Thakur, Gagan Ajit Singh, Jugraj Singh, Prabhjot Singh, Bimal Lakra, Ignace Tirkey and others were just players in the Indian team. Today, they are World Champions and that is where - if the Indian Hockey Federation steps in and with some neat planning - the same bunch could be turned into World Champions at the senior level. After the euphoria and the felicitations are over, IHF will need to look at the gains and build on them. For the first time in any international hockey tourney, except for the last edition of the junior World Cup in 1997, an Indian team has shown so much consistency. Except for the 1-2 loss to Australia, they did not lose a single match. And the best thing was the juniors actually improved by the time they reached the final where it was very evident they had good measure of their opponent, Argentina. A huge part of the success definitely goes to IHF and the coach. This is probably one junior team that has been exposed internationally for almost three years. Though Rajinder Singh came in a year ago, climbing up the rungs with the India 'A' squad, the team was also moulded by C R Kumar, now assistant coach with the senior Indian team. But largely it has been the hands-down approach that has worked wonders for the team. Rajinder Singh belongs to the old-school that believes in the traditional approach, the sub-continental style of hockey. And he made the players believe that if they scored upfront, winning would never be a problem. Rajinder Singh's biggest asset was that he had the players to deliver the goods, the forwards who would go and employ the tactics and get the goals. "I know there is a divide between the sub-continental style and the European methods but we need to pick up the best of both. Just by following a system, victory will not come. We need to know what we want," the coach said. And the need of the hour is a balance. Most of these juniors are anyway playing with the senior team and IHF should make both the coaches sit down and try and get the best out of them. (PTI)