After a tumultuous period following the hockey debacle at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, India fielded a relatively young but talented side for the Moscow Games where barring skipper Vasudevan Baskaran and goalkeeper Bir Bahadur Chhetri, the rest made their debut.
The Games, though, were marred by a US-led boycott over the Russian presence in Afghanistan.
As such, men’s hockey had just six teams with the medallists of the previous Games – New Zealand, Australia and Pakistan, besides European powerhouses West Germany and Holland – remaining absent. Thus, a gold medal for India was a foregone conclusion.
Yet, it was not all smooth sailing for the Indians who drew 2-2 with both Poland and Spain in the league phase while trouncing a weak Tanzania 18-0, Cuba 13-0 and Russia 4-2 to qualify for the final. India had to work hard for the gold as Spain put up a fighting performance. Goals by Surinder Singh Sodhi (2), Mohd Shahid and M.K. Kaushik set up a 4-3 win for India.
Despite India winning the gold after a lapse of 16 years, few really attached much significance given that the top teams stayed out of the competition. Yet, the triumph helped to soothe the nerves and restore a modicum of respectability to Indian hockey whose slide was at least temporarily halted.
Indian team: Vasudevan Baskaran (captain), Bir Bahadur Chhetri, Allen Schofield, Rajinder Singh, Davinder Singh, Sylvanus Dung Dung, Gurmail Singh, Ravinder Pal Singh, M.M. Somaya, Charanjit Kumar, Maharaj Krishan Kaushik, Mervyn Fernandis, Amarjit Singh Rana, Surinder Singh Sodhi, Mohd Shahid, Zafar Iqbal.
League: India beat Tanzania 18-0 (Surinder Sodhi 5; Davinder Singh 4; Baskaran 4; Zafar Iqbal 2; Shahid 1; Mervyn Fernandis 1; Kaushik 1).
India drew with Poland 2-2 (Davinder Singh 1; Mervyn Fernandis 1).
India drew with Spain 2-2 (Surinder Sodhi 2).
India beat Cuba 13-0 (Surinder Sodhi 4; Shahid 2; Davinder Singh 2; Rajinder Singh 2; Amarjit Rana 2; Baskaran 1).
India beat Russia 4-2 (Davinder Singh 1; Surinder Sodhi 2; Kaushik 1).
Final: India beat Spain 4-3 (Surinder Sodhi 2; Kaushik 1; Shahid 1).
Positions: India 1; Spain 2; USSR 3; Poland 4; Cuba 5; Tanzania 6.
(Anand Philar can be contacted at email@example.com)