The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India set to regain lost glory: Pillay

New Delhi: Indian hockey is on its way to regaining lost glory and has already made “the world stand up and take notice”, captain Dhanraj Pillay said Tuesday.

Following the Indian team’s arrival after winning the four-nation Hamburg Masters, Pillay said India would now go into the Champions Trophy in August with their morale high.

“The last one and a half years have been really good. And the back-to-back wins in Australia and Germany have boosted our confidence tremendously ahead of the Champions Trophy,” he said.

Pillay informed that even the International Hockey Federation (FIH) chief personally congratulated the side.

“It is the first time ever in my 15-year career that FIH president has congratulated and appreciated an Indian hockey team. It shows that we are moving in the right direction to regain lost glory.

“India is not right at the top but we are certainly in a position to intimidate any opposition,” Pillay added.

While giving credit to the entire team, Pillay singled out Gagan Ajit Singh, the Player of the Tournament, and Devesh Chauhan as the revelation of the tour.

“Gagan Ajit did not have a particularly good Australian tour scoring only three goals. But he had promised me before we left for Germany that he will deliver his best and he did. He proved that he is one of the best strikers in the world,” the hockey wizard said.

“Devesh also impressed a lot with his keeping and it was because of him that we conceded very goals from few penalty corners.”

He also emphasised on the team unity which played a big role in India’s success.

“We played very well as a unit. Also, we used to speak to the IHF president K. P. S. Gill everyday and there was consensus on every issue,” the captain added.

Pillay, however, admitted that luck was on India’s side.

“After beating Spain 4-2, we waited anxiously to know the outcome of the Germany-Argentina match. It was a very tense 70-minute for all of us and Argentina must be given credit for the way they played against the world champions.”

Argentina held the Germans 4-4 to ensure the title for the Indians.India lost to Germany but won their matches against Spain and Argentina to finish with six points, one ahead of the hosts.

Pillay felt India could have also won the one-off Test against Germany preceding the Hamburg meet but added that he was “satisfied with the result”.

“We played 70 minutes of attacking hockey against the German World Cup team. With a little more luck, we could have won against them.”

Pillay, meanwhile, pointed at weaknesses which need to be ironed out ahead of the Champions Trophy. “We have to ensure that we do not concede goals in the dying minutes,” he said.

The captain opined in spite of the recent successes, India will go into the Champions Trophy as underdogs. “The Indian hockey team is always the underdog,” he said.

Coach optimistic

Coach Rajinder Singh feels India are well on course to win the Champions Trophy and a medal at the Athens Olympics next year.

“Our build-up has been excellent and we are on track to achieve our long-standing goals,” he said.

“There is no pressure of expectation on us. But our good performances have put the pressure on our rivals who will have to start taking us more seriously,” he added.

India will persist with more or less the same team in the forthcoming assignments to maintain the balance.

“We have struck a right balance and will stick to this combination, though minor changes aren’t ruled out,” Rajinder added.

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