| Dhanraj Pillay celebrates after the victory over Pakistan. (AFP) n See Sport
Busan, Oct. 10: Dhanraj Pillay’s joy knew no bounds. The moment the 4-3 victory against Pakistan in the Asian Games semifinal was sealed, he lay prostrate and kissed the astroturf at the picturesque Gangseo Hockey Stadium. Up on his feet within seconds, he jumped around with the youngsters, some of them 12 to 14 years his junior.
He looked for a tricolour and got one easily. The victory lap was followed by a solo run, accompanied by screeches of joy. He hugged Gagan Ajit Singh and called the others to form a ring and say a prayer.
“This is a special day, let us enjoy,” Pillay said as a group of journalists approached him. Manager H.S. Dhillon managed to take the team into the dressingroom where another round of celebrations erupted.
Coach Rajinder Singh was chaired, so was Pillay. They tried it with one-time top cop K.P.S. Gill, the Indian Hockey Federation president who had arrived last night, but with no success. The champagne was missing, but the spirit was frothing over.
“It was a match of great significance. First, it was a semifinal against Pakistan and then we had lost to them from a winning position in the bronze medal play-off match in the Champions Trophy recently,” said the 34-year-old superstar who scored two goals and set up the matchwinner for Gagan Ajit.
“I had to give 110 per cent and I did. That’s why I am so happy,” Pillay said, barely audible.
“Don’t go by rumours that I am retiring... I haven’t decided anything yet,” he said when asked if the final against South Korea would be his last match.
Rajinder Singh, a veteran of scores of India-Pakistan matches, was the only one to betray emotion in an arena taken over by dancing Indians. “It was a typically entertaining match, we won because of a better team effort. Also, we took the chances that came our way.”
A bottle flew in from the Pakistan section of the stands and landed a couple of feet to Rajinder’s right. The yellow-clad Korean police rushed towards the stand from where the missile was directed.
“One team has to lose, why can’t the public take it sportingly'” Rajinder observed.
The Pakistan camp was glum. They had more of the support, from a handful of expatriates and almost the entire Asian Games contingent. But for once, the players couldn’t feed off fan-power. The Indians had to rely on the locals who came a poor second to the vociferous Pakistanis.
The war had been lost, a scapegoat had to be found. It happened to be the umpires. “Too many decisions went against us,” said Pakistan coach Tahir Zaman.