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Indian Hockey's best and worst moments in 2015

Abhishek Jain
SENIOR ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
1.91K   //    28 Dec 2015, 16:34 IST

It has been an enthralling year for Indian hockey fans as well as for all the Indian teams. With the national teams pushing for the heights they were once accustomed to, it can be very surely be said that the Indian hockey is on the road to resurrection.India’s performance in the calendar year at a glance: SquadMatchesWonDrawLostGoals ForGoals AgainstGoal DifferenceMen’s34176116967+2Women’s26123116045+15Junior men’s1812155728+29Junior women’s125166322+41The next calendar year will surely be very important for the Indian hockey teams as the men have qualified for the Rio Olympics 2016 by winning the Asian Games gold in Incheon, South Korea last year while the Indian women also made it to the mega tournament for the first time in 36 years and both the teams will be hoping to put their best foot forward in Rio.Here is the compilation of Indian Hockey's most talked moments in this calendar year:

#10 India-Australia Test Series

India-Australia
Indian lost a hard-fought series against world leaders Australia

The 3-match test series between the World leaders Australia and world number 9 India was scheduled to take place as the warm-up matches for the Hockey World League Finals that was due to take place in the next few days.

It was surely going to be a tough test for the players as the Indians have almost lost all the matches to the Aussies in the recent past. However, the Indians started on the front foot and drew the first match 2-2, and lost an evenly contested 2nd match by the narrowest of margins, going down 1-2.

The Indian players fought back to win the 3rd and final match 3-2 and levelled the series 1-1. A shoot-out was needed to decide the winner of the test series, with world leaders Australia clinching it 3-2 and with that the test series as well.

#9 Indian men\'s junior team wins Asia Cup

Indian junior men's Asia Cup
The Indian Junior Men’s team following their junior Asia Cup victory

The Indian men’s junior team ended the calendar year on a high as the Blues lifted the Junior Asia Cup, thrashing arch-rivals Pakistan 6-2 in the final played at Kuantan, Malaysia. The young Blues were a dominant force from the start of the tournament and went on to score a total of 32 goals at an average of 6 goals per match.

The young defender Harmanpreet Singh was the star man once again for India in the campaign, scoring a mammoth total of 15 goals, including 4 in the final against arch-rivals Pakistan.

Young custodian Vikas Dahiya was adjudged Best Goalkeeper of the tournament for his outstanding display between the goal posts throughout the cup.

#8 HIL Auction

Hockey India League Auction 2015

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The Hockey India League auction 2015 saw a total of 271 players go under the hammer as six franchises picked their squads for the fourth upcoming edition of the tournament in early January next year. 

With new rules in place for the upcoming edition of the HIL, the franchises showed great vision while selecting players for their 20-man squad. According to the new rule, the weightage for field goals will be double compared to goals scored from penalty corners, which means while a successfully converted short corner will still count as one goal, a field goal will be considered as 'two'.

Indian international Akashdeep Singh was sold for a staggering USD 84,000 to Uttar Pradesh Wizards, thus making him the most expensive Indian bought at the auction. However, it was Germany’s Moritz Fuerste who became the highest sold player at the HIL auction, with the Kalinga Lancers securing the German’s signature for a whopping record-breaking price of USD 105,000.

#7 AAP to expose Hockey India

Arvind Kejriwal Aam Aadmi Party
Mr. Arvind Kejriwal

In a year rife with allegations and speculation surrounding the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), reports started to come in the month of December that AAP were all set to expose the former DDCA treasurer and present Hockey India President Narinder Batra on charges of corruption in the governing body.

It was not the first time that some political members had complained about irregularities in the DDCA. In 2012, BJP MP Kirti Azad wrote a letter to then-DDCA president Arun Jaitley complaining about the same in a detailed format.

However, Mr. Arun Jaitley, the present Union Minister of India, failed to acknowledge the complaint and allegedly did nothing to cap corruption in his 14-year tenure as the president of DDCA.

Later on, Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party has also alleged that there were financial irregularities when Mr Jaitley was the president of the DDCA or Delhi and District Cricket Association for 13 years till December 2013.

#6 Gurbaj Singh banned

Gurbaj Singh
Indian midfielder Gurbaj Singh had a tough year

In an another incident that brought shame to the sport, one of the most experienced players of the team, Gurbaj Singh was handed a 9-month long suspension from the game forbidding him from taking part in any kind of events related to the sport.The 27-year-old was charged with misbehaviour and creating disharmony within the team.

The decision was taken by the Hockey India disciplinary committee headed by Mr. Harbinder Singh. Former Indian coach Jude Felix, who had filed the charges against him, was also present at the meeting along with Gurbaj Singh. Felix also mentioned in his report that Gurbaj had indulged in ‘groupism’ within the team and did not co-operate well with the coaches and staff during his participation in the recently-concluded World League.

However, 2-months later, Hockey India (HI) lifted the nine-month ban on Gurbaj Singh with immediate effect, acting on the directives issued by the Punjab and Haryana HC as the Hockey India athletes dispute and grievance redressal panel decided to let off Gurbaj with a warning.

Gurbaj made his senior team debut at the 2006 Doha Asian Games and since then has represented his nation on 203 occasions.

#5 Van Ass-Narinder Batra row

Narinder Batra
Hockey India President Narinder Batra

There have been instances in the past when a foreign coach has complained against the unfair methods used by a sport's governing body to control the game in the country. One such incident came to light this July, when the head coach of the Indian senior team, Paul van Ass, was sacked from his job just days after guiding the team to finish 4th in the Hockey World League Semi-finals in Antwerp.

It was reported that the Dutchman and his players were confronted by Hockey India President Mr. Narinder Batra after the quarter-final clash against Malaysia in the HWL semis, which India scraped through in the dying moments of the game.

The whole saga started when Batra barged onto the playing field moments after the conclusion of the quarter-final and in a heated encounter asked the coach and the players to up their game. However, the Indian head coach was not amused by Batra’s intrusion and asked him to leave quoting he had no authority to talk to the team on the playing field. 

#4 Roelant Oltmans effect

Roelant Oltmans
Roelant Oltmans mentoring the Indian players

Roelant Oltmans was appointed as the head coach of the senior Indian hockey team after his countryman Paul van Ass’ confrontation with Hockey India President Narinder Batra. The Dutchman doubled up as high-performance director as well with the Indian men’s national team at the start of his tenure.

Under Oltmans, the senior Indian hockey team overcame many hurdles and started to look as a formidable unit at the international stage. The Blues won the 4-match test series against New Zealand 2-1 in the All-Blacks’ backyard and later on, lost the 3-match series against the World leaders Australia in an intense penalty shoot-out which could have gone either way.

However, the Blues guided by Oltmans, ended the calendar year on a high by securing a Bronze medal at the recently concluded Hockey World League (HWL) Finals in Raipur, thus ending India’s 33-year medal drought in an FIH tournament. 

#3 Super Akashdeep Singh

Akashdeep Singh
Akashdeep Singh has had a great year

This has been a year to cherish for prolific striker Akashdeep Singh, who became the only Indian international to be shortlisted for the Federation of International Hockey's (FIH) yearly awards following his amazing run of form. The 21-year-old forward was shortlisted in the Rising Star of the Year category, which also includes Australian Blake Grovers and German international Christopher Ruhr.

The Punjab-based player became the most expensive Indian international bought at the Hockey India League auction with Uttar Pradesh Wizards securing his services for USD 84,000. The change in the regulations to be followed during the next edition of the HIL, can be considered as the primary reason for such a heavy paycheck.

He has represented his nation on 91 occasions and has 31 goals to his name at the highest level.

#2 Olympics boost for women

Olympics Boost
The Indian Eves qualified for the Olympics for the first time since 1980

This calendar year can be termed as the year that brought a much-needed revolution in the Indian women’s hockey division as the Indian Eves qualified for the Rio Olympics 2016 after a staggering gap of 36 years, courtesy of their 5th place finish at the Hockey World League Semis played at Antwerp, Spain.

The Hockey World League (HWL) semifinal was an Olympic qualification tournament, where the teams finishing in the top 3 get a place in the Olympics. The Indian team came into the tournament hoping to seal a spot for Rio, but things didnt go as planned as India lost their quarter-final tie to Netherlands. By failing to make the semifinals in the tournament, they competed for the 5th-8th spots.

However, the Blues overcame both the hurdles posed by Italy and Japan to finish 5th in the HWL semis. But, this result alone was not enough to take them through to Rio 2016 as they needed other results of the continental championships to go in their favour. As fate would have it, they finally made it to the Summer Games.

This is only the second time that the women’s team has made the Olympics after the 1980 Moscow games, which incidentally was also the last time that the men’s team won an Olympic medal.

#1 A medal after 33 years

Rupinder Pal Singh
Rupinder Pal Singh exhults after converting the final penalty stroke

A spirited India broke their 33-year-old medal jinx in a major FIH tournament as they came back from two goals down to stundefending champions Netherlands in the shoot-out after both the teams were tied 5-5 afterregulation time in a thrilling bronze medal play-off match of the Hockey World League (HWL) Finals played in Raipur.

It was a high-intensity match which produced as many as six goals in the last 10 minutes, three each fromIndia and Netherlands. In the shoot-out, custodian Sreejesh forced errors from Jeroen Hertzberger, Mirco Pruijser and Valentin Verga, with Birendra Lakra, Sardar Singh and Rupinder (who netted a penalty stroke after Manpreet Singh was fouled in the shoot-out) all scoring to seal a famous victory for the home favourites.

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