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Air India face Army XI in hockey final

Air India beat ONGC 7-6, while Army XI get the better of Central Railway 3-0 both via shootouts in Guru Tegh Bahadur semis at MHA-Mahindra Stadium

It was a day of shootouts at the MHA-Mahindra Stadium yesterday as both semi-finals of the Guru Tegh Bahadur tournament were decided by tie-breakers. First, Air India and Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) played out a 1-1 draw.

Super saver: Air India goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza effects a save against ONGC’s Jagwant Singh (in blue) during the shootout in the semi-finals of the Guru Tegh Bahadur tournament at MHA-Mahindra Stadium in Churchgate yesterday. Air-India won 7-6. Pic/Atul Kamble
Super saver: Air India goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza effects a save against ONGC’s Jagwant Singh (in blue) during the shootout in the semi-finals of the Guru Tegh Bahadur tournament at MHA-Mahindra Stadium in Churchgate yesterday. Air-India won 7-6. Pic/Atul Kamble 

This was followed by 12 penalty strokes from each side as both goalkeepers Adrian D'Souza (AI) and Kamaldeep Singh (ONGC) excelled under the bar, thwarting the solitary attackers time and again. Finally, deep into sudden death, Adrian denied Gurvinder Singh Chandi, while Joga Singh got the better of Kamaldeep to ensure AI emerged 7-6 victors.

The second semi-final between Central Railway and Army XI also finished 1-1 and went into the shootout. Here, Army custodian Nelson Kujur kept a clean sheet to see his team win 3-0. AI will play Army XI in today's final.

MHA-Mahindra or MHAL Stadium?
There has been some ambiguity in the recent past with reference to the name of the Mumbai Hockey Association Stadium in Churchgate. While some refer to it as the MHAL (Mumbai Hockey Association Ltd) Stadium, others continue to call it the MHA-Mahindra Stadium, a name that was added to the hockey body when Mahindra was one its main sponsor in the 1980s.

Air India hockey coach Dhanraj Pillay (in blue) and former India cricketer Nilesh Kulkarni at the MHA-Mahindra Stadium in Churchgate yesterday
Air India hockey coach Dhanraj Pillay (in blue) and former India cricketer Nilesh Kulkarni at the MHA-Mahindra Stadium in Churchgate yesterday 

However, it is now learnt that soon Mahindra may not be part of the hockey body. According to a source, MHA have written to Mahindra to renew their sponsorship, but the automobile giant is yet to revert. "MHA wrote to Mahindra a month back seeking some financial aid to carry out renovation work in the stands, but have not received a reply.

MHA keenly await the reply because they already have a couple of corporate bodies eager to have their name associated with the city's premier hockey body," said the source.

Nilesh Kulkarni spins Dhanraj in
Former India and Mumbai cricketer Nilesh Kulkarni was a surprise visitor at the MHA-Mahindra Stadium yesterday. And before one thought that he had entered the wrong gate and intended to go to the Mumbai Cricket Association next door, the lanky spinner quickly clarified that he was in the right place, and had come to meet his friend and colleague Dhanraj Pillay, the Air India hockey team coach.

"I enjoy watching all kinds of sport, but today I'm here for Dhanraj," Kulkarni, who is the founder and director of the sports education institute IISM (International Institute of Sports Management) said yesterday. "We conduct our courses at the nearby Jai Hind College and I've invited Dhanraj for an interaction with students next week. Dhanraj has a wealth of sports knowledge and will make for an interesting mentor," said Kulkarni.

Pillay was happy to oblige. "It will be an honour to share my experience with youngsters," he said, before quickly adding: "but that's next week. My focus now is on tomorrow's final. Army are a fit, fast side. We'll have to use all our experience to slow them down and beat them with our skills."

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