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'Triumph a gift for Kargil martyrs'

By Faisal Shariff
April 29, 2004 22:27 IST
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India coach Harendra Singh was ecstatic after the triumph in the Junior Asia Cup hockey tournament in Karachi on Thursday.

"We came to Pakistan to win and we did it," he told, after his boys beat Pakistan 5-2 in the final to win the title for the first time.

"The triumph is a gift for the Kargil martyrs," he added.

Refusing to single out any particular player for the success, the former India international said all the boys displayed tremendous courage and team spirit right through the tournament.

Harendra, who was also coach of the senior team at the recent Azlan Shah tournament in which India finished last, revealed that mercurial India forward Dhanraj Pillay provided him with valuable inputs during the final.

Excerpts from an interview immediately after the historic triumph:

What did you tell the boys in this morning? What was the strategy?

I just told the boys that they had never won on Pakistan soil. I urged them to win this title as a gift for the Kargil martyrs. It is a small gift, but I feel that we have made a small offering to the soldiers who died fighting in Kargil.

The boys were so confident that they told me they would pound five goals against Pakistan, just as they had done against Poland [in the six-nation Junior Challenge Cup in Poland last August]. I was shocked. I have never ever seen an Indian team so relaxed before playing a game against Pakistan. With this win the team has 30 consecutive victories. The character they have shown is brilliant.

Were you nervous when Pakistan scored two quick goals in the second half?

My midfielder, Girish Pimple, got a yellow card, so the Pakis had the advantage. They were screaming and hitting my players like anything. I told my players that when the Pakistanis lose their cool you keep yours and we will win. That is exactly what happened. They were under pressure. I knew this Pakistani team was bad. They have one guy who is married [Imran Warsi] in the team and no one exceptional. They were playing at home and had to win at all costs.

Sandeep Singh is an exciting prospect. Do you think he can fill Jugraj Singh's shoes at the Athens Olympics?

Sandeep mera mohra hai [Sandeep is my boy]. He is a mature player. He is a victory weapon. In the whole team Sandeep Singh is the guy who can change the course of the match. He is ready for bigger things. I don't want to say anything more than this.

Who are the other players who can play in the senior team?

Adrian D Souza is a player waiting to don national colours. If he goes to the Olympics with the team it will boost his confidence for the 2005 junior World Cup. Devesh Chouhan was sent to Sydney for the Olympics and he was groomed well. We need to do the same with the other players.

Besides him, William Xalco, Tushar Khandekar, V S Vinay and Vivek Gupta are players for the future.

Was the pressure less in the final as the team had already qualified for the Junior World Cup?

Qualifying for the World Cup was never the mudda [main subject] for me. Pakistan mein jeet kar dikhana tha. [we had to show that we can win in Pakistan] I came here to win. I was sure we would qualify for the World Cup. Now I will not put pressure on the boys for the World Cup.

Which senior players called to wish you?

All of them did. In fact, Dharaj Pillay was guiding me on the cell phone. We spoke for almost 30 minutes in the second half. He and I have a great relationship and he was giving me tips on what to do. His guidance was really very important. 

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Faisal Shariff

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