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 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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