Indian hockey

Azlan Shah Cup review: Youngsters impress despite lapses but same can’t be said about Sardar

Marijne has focused on giving youngsters are chance so that he has a rich bank of players to choose from.

It was never about winning the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup for India men’s hockey team. It was never about finishing in the top three. It was never about defending their bronze medal.

Coach Sjoerd Marijne landed in Malaysia with a young, inexperienced team to face the likes of Olympic champions Argentina, World Champions Australia, England, Malaysia and Ireland, who arrived with their full strength.

Since he took over in September, Marijne has focused on giving youngsters as many chances so that he has a rich bank of players to choose from. Remember that 2018 has at least four major tournaments in store for India. Hence, it did not come as a surprise as Manpreet Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal, goalkeeper PR Sreejesh were rested as Mandeep Mor, Sumit Kumar and Shilanand Lakra were called in.

Sure, the ending could have been better had this Indian team played to their potential at key points (especially against Ireland) but as we analyse the team’s fifth place finish it’s worth keeping in mind the objective of the think-tank: improve bench strength.

Did Marijne and Co achieve that?

Young guns make it count

At the end of six games, Marijne should be proud of the effort the youngsters put in. The likes of Dipsan Tirkey, Nilam Sanjeep Xess had a brilliant outing and have made a strong case for the upcoming Commonwealth and Asian Games.

Yes, their lack of experience of playing against the best teams in the world was evident. Conceding fouls and penalty corners at inopportune times was a feature of the Indian defence and midfield in this tournament/ But that did not deter them from going all out and giving everything on the pitch.

Young forward Shailanand Lakra had a brilliant tournament as he scored three goals to be the second highest goal scorer for India. Sumit Kumar also was brilliant up front as he assisted in crucial goals against Australia and other teams. He even got on the scoresheet by scoring a goal against Malaysia.

Mandeep was brilliant at defence along with Tirkey and Xess. The onus was on them to perform as Harmanpreet and Rupinder were rested.

Even though they had their defensive lapses - the lack of experience was clear against the likes of Argentina - credit to Marijne for backing the youngsters when it mattered.

Ramandeep overshadows Sardar 

This was Sardar Singh’s moment of truth. After missing out on the HWL Final and the tour of New Zealand, Sardar was handed the captain’s armband and also reinstated in the midfield after playing a defensive role in the Asia Cup in October. He has been under pressure to perform since Marijne took over. However, Sardar had an average outing in Malaysia.

He played exceptional hockey in phases (as someone of his talent should) and was seen doing a defender’s job whenever required.

Truth be told, he was unable to rally his troops whenever required. When the team’s performance was dipping against Ireland in a must-win game, the youngsters would have wanted their talisman to organise the defence and choreograph the attacks. That was Sardar’s opportunity to make a statement, alas it didn’t happen.

With Sardar’s form ebbing and flowing, Ramandeep Singh stepped up for India and had a brilliant outing. He scored four goals including two against Australia. He assisted in a couple of goals and played the injectors role during penalty corners. He was India’s go to moment during crisis. In the absence of senior players, the 24-year-old grew in stature at this tournament into perhaps India’s most crucial attacking player.

Up next, Commonwealth Games

With India finishing fifth at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, Marijne will now definitely set the standard high going into the Commonwealth Games. A number of players have made a strong case of making the squad for Australia.

Suraj Karkera had a brilliant spell as goalkeeper in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. He can be an able partner for Sreejesh. In defence, provided Harmanpreet and Rupinder return, Varun, Tirkey and Rohidas and Surendra Kumar will give them depth and four penalty corner specialists. Varun scored converted twice against Ireland on Saturday and Rohidas was brilliant against Argentina in their opener, scoring twice. But the percentage of conversion remains an Achilles Heel - it has to be top of Marijne’s to-do list, to improve India’s drag-flicking and competition for that spot is one way to effect improvement.

Midfield will be an area of concern as no one had an exceptional tournament. SK Uthappa injured his hamstring and was not at his usual best. With captain Manpreet bound to be back in the midst of things, Marijne will be looking to inject pace in the midfield so that they score on the counter when required.

India’s forward seems to be under control with Ramandeep, Gurjant Singh, SV Sunil, Lalit Upadhyay, Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Lakra and Sumit Kumar in the ranks, Marijne has a good headache up his sleeve when it comes to the CWG squad.

The India squad will be announced on March 16 in Bangalore. Time will tell who makes the cut and misses it.

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

Movies can make you leap beyond what is possible

Movies have the power to inspire us like nothing else.

Why do we love watching movies? The question might be elementary, but one that generates a range of responses. If you had to visualise the world of movies on a spectrum, it would reflect vivid shades of human emotions like inspiration, thrill, fantasy, adventure, love, motivation and empathy - generating a universal appeal bigger than of any other art form.

“I distinctly remember when I first watched Mission Impossible I. The scene where Tom Cruise suspends himself from a ventilator to steal a hard drive is probably the first time I saw special effects, stunts and suspense combined so brilliantly.”  

— Shristi, 30

Beyond the vibe of a movie theatre and the smell of fresh popcorn, there is a deeply personal relationship one creates with films. And with increased access to movies on television channels like &flix, Zee Entertainment’s brand-new English movie channel, we can experience the magic of movies easily, in the comforts of our home.

The channel’s tagline ‘Leap Forth’ is a nod to the exciting and inspiring role that English cinema plays in our lives. Comparable to the pizazz of the movie premieres, the channel launched its logo and tagline through a big reveal on a billboard with Spider-Man in Mumbai, activated by 10,000 tweets from English movies buffs. Their impressive line-up of movies was also shown as part of the launch, enticing fans with new releases such as Spider-Man: Homecoming, Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, The Dark Tower, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Life.

“Edgar Wright is my favourite writer and director. I got interested in film-making because of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the dead. I love his unique style of storytelling, especially in his latest movie Baby Driver.”

— Siddhant, 26

Indeed, movies can inspire us to ‘leap forth’ in our lives. They give us an out-of-this-world experience by showing us fantasy worlds full of magic and wonder, while being relatable through stories of love, kindness and courage. These movies help us escape the sameness of our everyday lives; expanding our imagination and inspiring us in different ways. The movie world is a window to a universe that is full of people’s imaginations and dreams. It’s vast, vivid and populated with space creatures, superheroes, dragons, mutants and artificial intelligence – making us root for the impossible. Speaking of which, the American science fiction blockbuster, Ghost in the Shell will be premiering on the 24th of June at 1:00 P.M. and 9:00 P.M, only on &flix.

“I relate a lot to Peter Parker. I identified with his shy, dorky nature as well as his loyalty towards his friends. With great power, comes great responsibility is a killer line, one that I would remember for life. Of all the superheroes, I will always root for Spiderman”

— Apoorv, 21

There are a whole lot of movies between the ones that leave a lasting impression and ones that take us through an exhilarating two-hour-long ride. This wide range of movies is available on &flix. The channel’s extensive movie library includes over 450 great titles bringing one hit movie premiere every week. To get a taste of the exciting movies available on &flix, watch the video below:

Play

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