Year in Review: 3 Best Moments in Indian Hockey from 2019
Both the Indian men's and women's' teams rose up the ranking ladder with a series of rousing performances in 2018, but failed to achieve their primary objective - while the women came tantalizingly close to winning gold at the Jakarta Asian Games, the men strode into the semifinals with ridiculous ease before hitting a Malaysian roadblock.
With encouraging World Cup performances to show for their efforts, both the men's and women's teams braced themselves for a quiet period of introspection and recovery in front of the drawing board before getting back to international action.
The Indian men began the year as the highest-ranked team at the Azlan Shah Cup, but failed to get past a dogged Korean defence in the pool stages - and again in the finals, before going down in a pulsating tiebreaker.
Long before the Indian men travelled to Ipoh, Sjoerd Marijne's chargers began their tour to Spain where they matched the hosts in every department and exacted sweet revenge on the Irish girls who they had lost to in the World Cup quarterfinal.
Aussie veteran Graham Reid joined the Indian camp as head coach just before the Indians set off for an Australian tour ahead of the all-important FIH Series Finals - the first step towards the Olympic qualification process.
At the bustling Kalinga Stadium, Manpreet Singh and co. brushed aside their opponents convincingly, and ended up winners while the women began their Olympic journey at Hiroshima where they continued their quest for retribution by defeating Asian Games champions Japan in the final.
The winning momentum continued in the Tokyo Olympic Test Event and the men's and women's teams rounded off successful European tours before the vital two-legged qualifiers in Bhubaneswar.
The Indian men overcame stiff resistance from Russia while the women breezed past the USA in the first leg before getting past a rejuvenated American outfit in the second.
The Indian women will begin the Olympic year with a tour to New Zealand and also play the Asian Champions Trophy in June while the men take on the world's best teams in the Pro League.
We take a look at three unforgettable moments from 2019 that will forever be etched in the minds of Indian hockey lovers.
#3 India 4-2 Malaysia (Azlan Shah Cup)
Of late, the Indians have managed to turn the tables on arch-rivals Pakistan - remaining unbeaten since the finals of the 2016 South Asian Games, but another Asian power has managed to dent India's pride at the world level, with victories in crucial games, such as the quarterfinals of the HWL Semifinal and the semifinal of the Asian Games.
Post the Jakarta clash, the two sides met in the Asian Champions Trophy late last year, but all the Indians could manage was to hold Roelant Oltmans' side to a goalless draw in a rather insipid contest.
Quite naturally, when the Indians took on Malaysia at the Azlan Shah Cup at Ipoh, fans back home wanted nothing less than an outright win.
The match began at a blistering pace with end to end exchanges but the scoreline stayed blank at the end of fifteen minutes.
Sumit gave India the lead a couple of minutes into the second quarter but the dangerous Razie Rahim (who had scored the vital last-gasp equalizer against India at Jakarta) drew level after Malaysia earned 4 back to back PCs.
Sreejesh was at his best as he made a vital save before Sumit Kumar put India ahead just before half time. The ever-dependable Varun Kumar managed to strike off a drag flick to give his side a two-goal cushion with a quarter left to play but Firhan Ashari's 57th-minute goal stunned the Indians.
Just when it seemed that the Malaysians were on the verge of another epic comeback, Mandeep Singh found the net to seal the deal for the Indians.
A barrage of PC's (9 for each side) ensured that the spectators were on their toes. It was a contest where the video umpire was kept busy, but at the end of the day, it was a memorable win for the Indians who went on to win silver after losing to South Korea in the final.