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‘Proud of our effort’

New Delhi: Sardar Singh was hugely disappointed when he was unable to take the field in the Commonwealth Games semi-finals against New Zealand because of suspension, but in the end, he was delighted by the way his boys turned the table on New Zealand.

“I felt guilty for missing the all-important match. However, India’s performance erased the common perception that India without Sardar Singh cannot perform well in international outings. I’m proud of the way my boys played and won even after trailing by two goals,” said the Indian captain after arriving in the capital on Tuesday.

Sardar said even though India lost in the final against Australia, the improvement in the team was evident. “Our approach to the game and performance was better than what we did in the World Cup. I think we are moving in the right direction before the Rio Olympics. This team is a fine mixture of youth and experience. Given some time, the team would do well at the world stage,” he said.

Sardar claimed that India improved in every department of the game. “We combined well as a team and players like (Nikkin) Thimmaiah, Akashdeep Singh, Gurbaj Singh and Gurvinder Singh Chandi played exceptionally well. Our penalty corner conversion always came under criticism but in Glasgow, both Rupinder Singh and (VR) Gopinath, showed clear signs of improvement,” he said.

Asked what exactly went wrong against Australia in the final as India were routed 0-4, Sardar said the defence could not play as good as they did in the earlier matches.

“The Australians scored three goals from penalty corners and that changed the course of the match. Perhaps we could have avoided conceding at least a couple of penalty corners. It was raining during the match and we could not play in an aggressive manner. In the group match, we lost 4-2 but played better than the final.

“True, we lost the gold medal for the second time to Australia in the Commonwealth Games. But last time, we lost by eight goals in front of home crowd. This time, things were different. Anyone who watched us play would admit it,” said Sardar.

“It was disappointing to miss out on the gold but we are satisfied with what we have achieved. The boys can be proud of their achievement,” Sardar said on Tuesday.

The Indian captain stressed the need for starting the preparations for the Asian Games immediately. “A lot of hard work is needed for Asian Games as we are targeting the gold. It will also help us to qualify for the Olympics.”