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Indian men retain fifth place but girls slip to tenth in the world rankings post the FIH Pro League results

FEATURED COLUMNIST
Feature
320   //    01 Jul 2019, 09:10 IST

Australia beat Belgium in the Men's FIH Pro League Final
Australia beat Belgium in the Men's FIH Pro League Final

After six months of intense action which involved shuttling between continents and rotating players like never before, the first edition of FIH's ambitious Pro League concluded in Amsterdam on Sunday.

Pakistan's early suspension did make news for all the wrong reasons as did a minor rebellion in the Dutch camp on account of scheduling issues - but on the whole, the Pro League has proven to be quite successful in drawing the crowds from Valencia to Buenos Aires.

Hockeyroos lose a close shootout but kookaburras on top of the world

On Saturday, the Dutch girls reasserted their supremacy on the world stage but only just - after they were stretched by a resurgent Australian side who lost out in a tense shootout in the women's final.

The Hockeyroos joined the chorus from the stands on Sunday as Advance Australia Fair rang out at the Wagener Stadium much to the jubilation of their male counterparts who ended the competition as the undisputed and deserving champions.

Colin Batch's chargers who had failed to defend their World Cup title at Odisha last December stormed back in style in the Pro League winning 10 of their 14 matches.

The Australian men were not too impressive at the start and began with a shootout loss to the Dutch followed by a 1-4 drubbing the hands of world champions Belgium back in February.

Wins against Germany and Great Britain followed and thus began a long unbeaten run for Colin Batch's team which finally ended with a 2-3 defeat by Spain, in Madrid, in the second week of June.

After thrashing old foes England by a 6-1 margin in the semifinals, the kookaburras took on Belgium in the final - a side that had managed to get past the Dutch in an ill-tempered but high-intensity semifinal on Friday.

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An injury to Jorrit Croon had the Dutch camp fuming - and soon after, Jeroen Hertzberger and Alexander Hendricks both picked up a yellow card each amidst an ugly exchange, but the Belgians maintained their composure to outmaneuver Max Caldas' side by a 3-1 margin.

Belgium's Thomas Briels suffered a concussion in the semifinals, and to add to the woes of the Red Lions, Arthur Van Doren had to be helped off the pitch in the Grand Final against Australia.

A marauding Australian side kept the pressure up on the Red Lions and scored twice in the first quarter before Arthur de Sloover's push in front of goal resulted in a penalty stroke which Blake Govers - who ended up being the highest scorer of the competition - converted with ease just before the long breather.

The Belgians scored twice in the second half to attempt a comeback but the Aussies had the last laugh after lifting the inaugural Pro League trophy and displacing Shane McLeod's team from the summit to retain the top spot in the world rankings after a gap of six months.

Australian goalkeeper Tyler Lovell had a great match and was rewarded for his efforts in the post-match ceremony while the ever-reliable Aran Zalewski picked up the Best Player award.

The Dutch beat Danny Kerry's side to win bronze at home, but by virtue of reaching the semifinals of the Pro League, Great Britain (England) climbed the rankings to occupy the sixth position while the Germans who had a disappointing run had to climb down a rung and occupy the seventh slot.

Indian girls slip to tenth in spite of winning FIH Series Finals

The Indian men retained their fifth position in the world rankings, but the Indian girls lost their hard-earned ninth position arguably for no fault of theirs.

Rani Rampal's team won the FIH Series Finals - the only tournament that was on offer for the Indians who opted not to be part of the Pro League, but the Belgian girls jumped four places to inch ahead of India by a couple of points to occupy the ninth spot.


The ranking disparity has been of concern to the Indian camp
The ranking disparity has been of concern to the Indian camp

The Golden Girls are still the highest-ranked Asian side as both China (who played the Pro League) and South Korea also fell behind.

Coach Sjoerd Marijne had always been anxious and apprehensive that the girls may stand to lose because of the massive disparity in ranking points between the FIH Series Finals and the FIH Pro League and the worst fears of the Indian camp were realized after the rankings were revised.

After a series of encouraging performances, the Indian girls had climbed to the ninth position following a World Cup quarterfinal finish last year while the Indian men rose to be the fifth-best side after the 2018 Champions Trophy.

Meanwhile, Pakistan, the former giants of world hockey have fallen to seventeenth in the world rankings although there is some good news for the Men in Green with the FIH reaching a settlement agreement with the Pakistan Hockey Federation.

The agreement consists of a settlement amount - half of which is to be invested in development of hockey at the grassroots, while the other half is to be paid to the FIH. The FIH had earlier initiated disciplinary proceedings against the PHF for Pakistan's sudden withdrawal from the Pro League.


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