Friday, May 30, 2014

India can reach semifinals, says 1975 World Cup winner and Dhyan Chand’s son Ashok Kumar

No talk about the hockey world cup can be complete without a mention of India’s glorious 1975 World Cup Cup triumph at Kuala Lumpur. And the man, who scored the all-famous match-clincher against arch-rivals Pakistan in the summit clash – Ashok Kumar – son of legendary Dhyan Chand – exudes an extra dose of high energy reminiscing the biggest moment of Indian hockey in World Cup. “Those are my memories which can never be wiped off – we always recall those days with pride and that was the last time India made a podium finish at the World Cup,” Ashok says in an exclusive interview to Hockey Passion.

Rewind to the 2014 Rabobank World Cup, Ashok has no hesitation about painting an upbeat picture. “Look, the team has prepared quite well. The new coach got adequate time to settle down with the boys and the boys are getting all the required facilities. I think the boys are better prepared to deliver in The Hague,” he quips.

The 64-year-old Meerut-born former stalwart, who was also part of the bronze-winning 1972 Munich Olympics team, believes the team have the wherewithal to fare well in the World Cup. ‘We have a pretty decent side this time around. We have goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who is really solid and then we have Vokkaliga Raghunath who lost weight and looks leaner and fitter. Captain Sardar Singh has plenty of experience under his belt and there is Gurbaj who is making a comeback after being in the wilderness. This team have the potential to reach the semifinals,” he says with a tinge of confidence.

The Indian team’s head coach Terry Walsh has talked about setting realistic expectations and is of the opinion that a top-6 or a top-8 finish should be seen as a significant improvement for the national side. But Ashok, who was also part of the Asian Games silver-winning Indian teams of 1970, 1974, 1978, refused to be drawn into it. “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion and I firmly believe that this team can put up a good showing in the World Cup.”

The four-time World Cupper lavished praised on talented youngster Mandeep Singh. “He is naturally gifted and has excellent goal-poaching skills. Of course, he has to improve his ball speed and can be a great asset to the side.”

He tips Germany to win the World Cup. “Germany have a lot of depth and they will be strong contenders for the World Cup.

How about the recent felicitation by Hockey India to all the 13 living members of the 1975 World Cup winning side? “It’s a good gesture on the part of Hockey India to honour us with a cash award of Rs 175,000. Of course, at this stage of my career I won’t be spending that money for myself, but for my kids and family members,” the suave, soft-spoken former striker fired a parting shot.

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