About Hockey stalwart Ashok Kumar and his 'sweetest kisses'

Updated: Nov 18, 2018, 09:05 IST | Ashwin Ferro

Hockey stalwart Ashok Kumar recalls how teammates Shivaji Pawar and Mohinder Singh showered him with love moments after he scored the all-important 1975 World Cup-winning goal in the final against Pakistan at Malaysia

India's 1975 World Cup-winning hockey team. (Standing left to right) Aslam Sher Khan, Surjit Singh, BP Govinda, Harcharan Singh, Ajit Pal Singh, Onkar, PE Kalliah,  Ashok Kumar, VJ Phillips.  (Sitting left to right) Mohinder Singh, Michael Kindo, Varinder Singh, Leslie Fernandez, Ashok Diwan, HS Chimni, Shivaji Pawar. Pics Courtesy/Sportsweek magazine
India's 1975 World Cup-winning hockey team. (Standing left to right) Aslam Sher Khan, Surjit Singh, BP Govinda, Harcharan Singh, Ajit Pal Singh, Onkar, PE Kalliah, Ashok Kumar, VJ Phillips. (Sitting left to right) Mohinder Singh, Michael Kindo, Varinder Singh, Leslie Fernandez, Ashok Diwan, HS Chimni, Shivaji Pawar. Pics Courtesy/Sportsweek magazine

If any international match-winning goal is a huge high, imagine what a World Cup-winning goal must feel like. Ashok Kumar, son of hockey legend Dhyan Chand, experienced this "super high" on March 15, 1975 at the Merdeka Football Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as India won its first and only hockey World Cup, after rallying to beat Pakistan 2-1 in the final. "It's a super high that cannot be explained," Ashok Kumar, 68, told mid-day from his home in Bhopal.

A screengrab of India's Mohinder Singh (right) kissing teammate Ashok Kumar moments after the latter scored the match-winner against Pakistan during the 1975 World Cup hockey final in Malaysia
A screengrab of India's Mohinder Singh (right) kissing teammate Ashok Kumar moments after the latter scored the match-winner against Pakistan during the 1975 World Cup hockey final in Malaysia

Team hysteria
The entire Indian team led by Ajit Pal Singh, went hysterical, recalled Kumar. "Two of our players, Shivaji Pawar and Mohinder Singh came and kissed me on my cheeks after I scored. Now, we normally used to hug each other or give high-fives after goals, but kissing was rare - even if it was on the cheek. We were over the moon. Those kisses highlighted the significance of our global conquest. Sadly, both Shivaji and Mohinder are no more, but I will never forget their kisses. For me, they were the world's sweetest kisses," added Kumar.

India's Shivaji Pawar in action during the 1975 World Cup in Malaysia
India's Shivaji Pawar in action during the 1975 World Cup in Malaysia

Poor start by India
The match didn't begin well for the Indians though, and half-way through, they were staring down the barrel. "Captain Ajit Pal was disheartened when the Pakistanis were leading 1-0. At our half-time team huddle, he said: 'It's tough to win now because they will defend strongly.' But I shouted, 'time hai hamare paas [we have enough time to score]' and everyone simply stared at me," said Kumar.

After the change of ends, Surjit Singh's penalty corner (44th minute) helped India draw level and that, according to Kumar, was one of the best goals of the tournament. "It was a crisp, accurate hit and to do that under pressure, as we were a goal down in a big final, was remarkable," he said.

India captain Ajit Pal Singh receives the World Cup from Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak after beating Pakistan 2-1
India captain Ajit Pal Singh receives the World Cup from Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak after beating Pakistan 2-1

That winning goal
And then came the winner (51st min), with its own share of controversy. "Harcharan Singh took the long corner and relayed the ball to Ajit Pal on top of the 'D'. He trapped it and passed it to me, to his right. I dodged one man and gave it to VJ Phillips to my right and moved a few steps ahead. Phillips gave me a square pass back, right in front of goal, and I flicked the ball past the goalkeeper's left. The ball entered the goal, hit the inside corner and rolled out - all in a matter of seconds - but Malaysian umpire Vijayanathan did not immediately blow his whistle to indicate the goal. I was stunned. A few seconds later, he blew," explained Kumar.

Ashok Kumar
Ashok Kumar

Pakistanis cry foul
The Pakistanis however, felt that the ball had rebounded off the post, and their captain Islahuddin Siddique even led a brief protest with the umpire. Kumar added: "A few years later, Islahuddin, in his book, claimed that it wasn't a goal and that he had seen it from close quarters. But he couldn't have because he plays on the right and so do I, which means we are in opposite directions on the field. So, when I scored, he could not have been anywhere close to the action.

"I cared two hoots about the Pakistanis' reaction. I jumped in celebration and ran back to our half. I picked up those kisses from my mates en route, and moments later, planted a few of my own on the glittering trophy."

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