The world we live in has changed dramatically over the last few months. With the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, the entire sporting world has come to a standstill. With a few countries in complete lockdown and others severely restricting movement, the general populace has gone into a de facto hibernation.
These tough times provide us with the perfect opportunity to look back at the decade that has gone by and cherish some of the matches that defined the Indian senior men's hockey team during this decade..
Here's a list of the top 5 matches of the decade (2010-2019), that not only inspired the viewers and revived their interest in hockey, but also proved that the Indian hockey team were again coming of age.
#5: India vs Pakistan, 2010 FIH Hockey World Cup, New Delhi
The stage was set. India vs Pakistan in a World Cup encounter. It really didn't get bigger than this. Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi was to host the 12th edition of the Hockey World Cup. India were the underdogs going into the match, ranked 12th in the world. Numerous promotion events and ad campaigns stirred up interest among the masses. The opening match of India's campaign couldn't have been better set up.
An India vs Pakistan encounter, in any sport, has always had high pressure and high expectations. This match was no different. What made this clash even more interesting is that it was at a time when both teams could beat the other on their day.
A packed stadium on a Sunday evening, the home crowd eagerly anticipating an Indian win and millions at home glued to their television sets, this Indo-Pak World Cup encounter was underway. After the pushback, the first real opportunity for India came in the 17th minute. Vikram Pillay earned India a penalty corner. But it was skillfully thwarted by the Pakistani goalkeeper. India finally broke the deadlock in the 27th minute. A powerful drag-flick by Sandeep Singh was blocked by the Pakistan goalkeeper moments before Shivendra Singh put the rebound ball into the back of the net.
India extended their lead just moments before the halftime break. Indian forward Deepak Thakur found the foot of a Pakistani defender inside the circle, earning India another penalty corner. This time, Sandeep made no mistake as he smashed a low drag-flick to left corner of the goalkeeper. India were 2-0 ahead at half time.
India's dominance continued as Prabhjot Singh scored India's third goal two minutes into the second half and set off on his trademark aeroplane style celebration. Sandeep sealed the match in 56 minute as he powered yet another drag-flick into the back of the net, scoring his second goal of the match.
Pakistan, on the other hand were unlucky as Pakistani hockey legend Sohail Abbas's drag-flick effort saw the ball striking the crossbar on two occasions. Finally, a breakthrough for Pakistan came in the 59th minute as Abbas managed to beat the Indian goalkeeper to score Pakistan's first and only goal of the night.
The final hooter ended Pakistan's misery as India won the opening game comfortably by 4-1. The whole nation rejoiced and many felt that the outcome erased once and for all the memories of the 1-7 thrashing at the hands of the same opponent in the Asian Games final in 1982.
#4: India vs France, 2012 Hero FIH Road to London, New Delhi
Indian hockey hit an all-time low when they failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It was the first time that an Indian Hockey team failed to qualify for an Olympic event since 1928. Many saw it as a death knell for Indian hockey.
The 2008 Olympic qualifier was held in Chile. With only the winner advancing to the Olympics, India faced a strong Great Britain side in the finals. Great Britain beat India 2-0, thereby killing India's hopes of an Olympic berth. Four years later, the Olympic qualifier 1 event was held in New Delhi and this time the Indian team could not afford any slip-ups.
India bullied their way into the finals, beating all the other teams (Singapore, Italy, France, Canada and Poland) in the pool comfortably. They faced France in the finals. The stakes were high. A win would not only ensure a berth in the Olympics, but also revive Indian hockey which was stuck in a vicious cycle of neglect and non-performance. It would also revive public interest in the sport back home.
On the night of the finals, the hosts could do no wrong as they steamrolled their opponents. Birendra Lakra stared off the goal fest with a reverse stick in the 17th minute to register India's opening goal. The match soon turned one-sided as Sandeep Singh scored 5 penalty corner goals.
By the 57th minute, the match was already done and dusted with the scorecard reading 8-1 in favour of the host. Massive celebrations ensued as India booked a place in the 2012 London Olympics after missing out on the 2008 edition.