By R.M.S. Atwal
JALANDHAR: While it remains to be seen if Dabur Mumbai Magicians are at all able to cast any magic spell on Jaypee Punjab Warriors here tonight, home team’s Manager and mentor, former Olympian Jagbir Singh has expressed the confidence that since the team has found its rhythm after a win at Mumbai, it is very much a contender for the Hero Hockey India League (HIL) semi-finals to be played in Ranchi early next month.
It may be noted that the Mumbai team is yet to taste a victory in this key championship. This despite the fact that it is being coached by famous Ric Charlsworth, former India coach. The team has famed India drag-flicker Sandeep Singh who will be keenly watched by the Jalandhar crowd tonight.
“Punjab is on a roll and have fallen into its groove after some initial setbacks and I am sure we will not only give a good fight to Mumbai here but will make every effort to guarantee our place in the semi-finals too,” said Jagbir while taking to this correspondent at the Olympian Surjit Hockey Stadium here last evening.
One of the world’s best centre-forwards of yesteryear, Jagbir is of the opinion that like good penalty-corner specialists, only good strikers in the striking circle, who have the ability to convert half chances into goals, can help change the fortunes of the game.
It is believed that all good work in the mid-field is of no use if a player is not able to score a goal. The modern hockey has become more result-oriented with the change of times. The hockey on austro-turf is more fast-paced and more and more spectator-friendly on and off the field, yes on our televisions.
“Hockey has come a long way today. It is more attacking and fast-paced. I think it the attacking hockey through sharp-shooters which can win you matches today.” observed the suave Arjuna awardee, one of the key compatriots of Olympian Pargat Singh of Punjab.
Jagbir said that the Punjab team players have gelled quite well with each other now and raring to go against the Mumbai Magicians tonight. He attributed previous losses to some injury problems and lack of understanding among foreign and Indian players. According to him, this could be because the players did not get much time to play together before the start of the championship.
Asked if the players have language problems on the field, the former international did admit that but added quickly that the best language for a hockey player is the language of hockey. As long as they understand that language it was fine, he emphasised.
“This hockey league is a wonderful chance for our young players to learn from the experienced European players who have years of experience behind them. Thanks to franchisees, now money too has come into the game. I think that’s a very good move. Our players will get tons of motivation now,” said Jagbir who works for Air India along with former India coach Zafar Iqbal, among others.
The former international did admit that the reason team India captain Sardar Singh and ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh are one of the best in the world today, it is because of their tremendous foreign exposure. They got lot of chances to play among the world’s best during foreign hockey leagues in the past.
“Hockey is in our blood and close to our heart. We all must unite to bring our national game again to the top,” he appealed to all those connected with the game and hockey-lovers in India and abroad.
Today’s match at Surjit Hockey stadium in Jalandhar will begin at 8 p.m.