Hits, misses before the start: India lose practice game to Argentina on penalties

India hockeyFor a team that last played at Hockey Asia Cup in August last year, there was little rustiness (IE Photo Ravi Kanojia)

Scorelines in practice matches are essentially irrelevant. And the result of a warm up match composed of two 25 minute halves and a five minute break - as negotiated on field by opposing coaches - is hardly the matter of record. But those present at the National Stadium on Monday evening will note that India went down 4-3 on penalties to Argentina in a practice game ahead of the World Hockey League finals after the match ended a 3-3 tie.

Keeping in mind the nature of the game there weren't any downcast faces on either side. Captain Sardar Singh who missed a shot in the penalty shootout at the end of the game, had a smile on his face as he shook hands with his rivals, as was the case with coach Terry Walsh on the sidelines. Roelant Oltmans, the technical director, even had a high five for Rupinderpal Singh who had scored off a penalty corner.

India, indeed, have enough to smile about. For a team that last played at the Hockey Asia Cup in August last year, there was little rustiness. The intention was to get everyone some playing time and despite the time out of the game there wasn't a marked dip in quality. The seniors had a solid game — Sardar Singh was his effective best in the midfield, finding crosses with accuracy while VR Raghunath was tight defensively. Raghunath had also scored with a dragflick from a penalty corner early in the game and then had an assist, firing a free hit right to SV Sunil through a maze of Argentine defenders.

Amongst the youngsters, defender Amit Rohidas, who played in the disappointing Junior World Cup campaign, seemed right at home having moved up to the senior side. In one moment of brilliance, he first grabbed a loose ball in the circle after a penalty corner clearance and then burst free into the halfway area before sending a long pass that earned a penalty corner. Rupinderpal Singh would score clinically from that opportunity - one of two successful conversions from three attempts, a reasonable rate.

... contd.

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