The Indian hockey team’s hard-fought and historic silver medal finish at the FIH Champions Trophy has received a very special stamp of approval.
India hockey wizard Dhyan Chand’s son and former India captain Ashok Kumar is in town to visit his grandson Ambar, daughter Preeti Singh and son-in-law Dr Sandeep Juneja. And the entire family, glued to their TV sets at their Navy Nagar home in Colaba, soaked in every moment of the young Indian team’s 0-0 battle with world champions Australia in Saturday’s final in London.
All in the family: Hockey wizard Dhyan Chand’s son Ashok Kumar with his grandson Ambar (right) at their home in Colaba yesterday
Four-time World Cupper (1971, 1973, 1975, 1978) Ashok Kumar, who scored the winner to give India its first and only World Cup title (vs Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) in 1975, has hailed this young Indian team’s final flourish.
all in the family: Hockey wizard Dhyan Chand’s son Ashok Kumar with his grandson Ambar (right) at their home in Colaba yesterday
“The final was a psychological battle — the boys had lost (2-4) to Australia in the league phase, so when they were up against the same opposition in the final, they played fearlessly and excelled. Many people believe that we should aim for a top-4 or top-6 finish at the (Aug 5-21) Rio Olympics, but I believe we should go for a medal. We can challenge top teams like Spain, Germany, Britain, and this Champions Trophy silver medal is a huge confidence-booster for Rio,” Ashok Kumar (66) told mid-day yesterday.
India controversially lost
1-3 via the shootout in which the referee felt goalkeeper PR Sreejesh obstructed one of the Australian players and ordered the attempt to be taken again. The Indian team protested and the final outcome was delayed by over an hour as FIH’s technical team studied video footage and eventually found Sreejesh guilty. Ashok Kumar however, is certain Sreejesh was innocent. “International umpires have always been against India. I have witnessed this first hand during my playing days too. That’s why winning abroad is so difficult. Sreejesh did no wrong,” fumed the two-time Olympian (1972, 1976).
The team was without captain Sardar Singh and senior drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh, and that’s what makes this outcome impressive, felt Ashok Kumar. “Senior players V Raghunath (defender and drag-flicker) and goalkeeper Sreejesh held the defence together very well and guided this young team brilliantly,” added Ashok Kumar, who lives in Bhopal and was scheduled to return home last night.
The legend’s grandson meanwhile, is showing signs of his sporting genes. “Ambar is just nine. He likes football a lot and hockey a bit, but his school (Campion) does not have a hockey team. And he’s not a striker like Babuji (Dhyan Chand) and myself, but a midfielder. He watches a lot of international football on TV. Unfortunately, Indian hockey is not on TV often, so he doesn’t know much about it. But if he takes up hockey later, I’ll be happy to teach him a few tricks of the trade,” Ashok Kumar signed off.