Indian hockey

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Sloppy India have only themselves to blame for chastening loss

A disappointing performance saw India lose to Ireland 3-2 in the final group game.

It eventually wouldn’t have mattered, but when the Indian men took the field at the Sultan Azlan Shah stadium in Ipoh, Malaysia against Ireland, the equation facing them was simple. Win, against the team that is ranked 10th in the world, the team that had lost all its previous matches in the tournament, and have the chance to put real pressure on both Malaysia and England in the next game. With England thrashing Malaysia 7-2 in the final group match, India would not have finished in the top two - but a win against Ireland would have at least kept them in medal contention.

As it turned out, Ireland stunned the men in blue to record a deserving 3-2 win and ensured the two teams will replay this match on Saturday to see who finishes last in the tournament. Irrespective of the strength of the Indian squad sent to the tournament, that is not a scenario that should please the think-tank.

No excuses

As has been repeatedly mentioned in these pages, this Indian team was experimental in nature - the idea was to test the bench strength ahead of a crucial 2018. The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is, by some distance, the least important tournament for India in a packed year.

Having said all that, the team that India fielded on Friday - especially fresh from a 5-1 thrashing of Malaysia - should not have thrown away leads twice to lose against a gritty Irish team.

Coming into this match, there was a good case to be made for the fact that India played poor hockey for just one quarter in this tournament - the third quarter against Australia where they conceded three goals, playing with 10 men for the most part. If indiscipline was the biggest issue for the team in the first four matches of the tournament, it made way for lack of focus against Ireland.

The first time Ireland got on scoresheet after Ramandeep Singh had given India the early lead, it was from a free hit down India’s left flank. The ball was played out harmlessly before a couple of quick cross-field passes caught the Indian defence napping - so much so that the most dangerous Ireland striker from open play, Shane O’Donoghue, was left unmarked with all the time in the world to unleash a powerful shot at Suraj Karkera in goal. A great finish from an avoidable scenario, the coach would have told himself.

It didn’t take long for India to regain the lead, and going 2-1 up at half time, Coach Sjoerd Marijne would have expected his troops to buck up and solidify the lead in the second half. The warning signs were there. Ireland were growing into the game, the Indian defence looked shaky, the forwards were not clicking with too many long balls being attempted instead of passing through the midfield - the give-and-go style that the Dutch coach wants his team to play.

But instead, the third quarter saw India play the worst hockey of their tournament so far. While conceding three to Australia in the space of 15 minutes can be excused for an inexperienced team, conceding two to Ireland in that third quarter would be a much tougher pill to swallow.

Avoidable second goal

If the first goal came about when the defence was caught napping, the second goal happened when the Indian back-line took a long afternoon siesta. It was the simplest of cross from the right flank, any sting in it had been taken out by a deflection as it came into the box. First, Sumit saw the harmless cross past him as his stick control evaded him. Not expecting the ball to get past Sumit, Karkera was not ready to deal with it either and allowed it to trickle past him. And Sean Murray was more than glad to get his belated Christmas present - tapping it in from a yard away.

Credit where credit is due, the third goal was a well-worked penalty corner routine from the men in green. And once they had taken the lead, Ireland simply had to defend their posts with grit, which they more than managed to do. India’s attacking play in the final quarter lacked cohesion and it didn’t look like they had two goals left in them. The legs were tired, despite coming into the game with a day’s rest, the passes didn’t stick, and the circle penetrations were more in desperation than with any clear strategy.

Caveats about the lack of experience aside, the performance against Ireland was not befitting that of a team of India’s stature. There are no easy wins in a tournament like this, but had India played anywhere close to their capabilities, Sardar Singh and Co would have been in contention for the bronze medal on Saturday and not a shootout to avoid finishing last.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.


Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.