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Azlan Shah shows hockey ready for turnaround


Digvijay Singh Deo,CNN-IBN
May 20, 2008 at 11:37pm IST

New Delhi: Even as the fans wondered if Indian hockey could ever recover from the depths that it had sunk to; a young team renewed hope at the 17th Sultan Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia.

Even though the team finished second, it was time for celebration for the young hockey players many of whom are not used to the spotlight.

The Indian team's performance at the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament comes at a time when Indian hockey is struggling to recover from the scars of a disastrous Olympic qualifying campaign.

BEWARE: Technical advisor Ric Charlesworth says people shouldn't get carried away with Azlan Shah results.

But nine players in the team that went to Malaysia were from the junior squad and they punched their way to the finals and came back with a silver medal.

"We were weaker than many teams - technically and in other aspects. But it was the urge of the team to gel together," said coach AK Bansal.

But the start of the tournament was far from being auspicious. Almost buried after two losses in the opening two matches, the team beat three Beijing Olympics bound teams including archrivals Pakistan 2-1 enroute to the final.

There they ran the whole distance with the fancied Argentineans, going down 2-1 in extra time.

It is a performance, which has given hope to the ad hoc committee, which runs Indian hockey at the moment.

"The first time I saw India play with a very, very viewpoint. I didn't see any of these boys getting jittery in the games. They were playing a very, very mature game. That comes with confidence," Mohd Aslam Khan said.

But one man who is definitely not impressed by all the celebrations is technical advisor Ric Charlesworth.

"A lot of other teams are in a different phase. They are preparing for the Olympics; they are training hard and are not peaking. A lot of the good players of the other teams were not playing so you to take that into account. You shouldn't get carried away," Charlesworth cautioned.

But that is what Charlesworth is here for. To turn Indian hockey around and the performance in Malaysia shows the talent is there.

What is needed is a proper system to back the players, so that their potency is realised.

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