Incessant rain robbed much of the charm of competitive hockey in the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament on Friday. Yet the players strove manfully to battle a combination of inclement weather and a tricky, hazardous wet pitch, to offer the spectators some moments to relish.
That 25 goals were scored in the day underscores the wide chasm that exists between the top-notch combinations and the rest in the fray.
On view were a plethora of internationals — past and present — indicating that contests will be more intense and keener in the days to come. There was Prabhjot Singh sharing the spotlight with the current icon V.R. Raghunath scoring for IOC against CAG.
The Air India outfit, featuring a dozen yesteryear stars, soundly outplayed Indian Bank. The 10-2 margin, leading 6-1 at half-time, was a humiliating defeat by any yardstick.
Puddles of water on the worn-out turf and an interruption by rain did not deter IOC, the joint winner last year, from side-stepping new entrant, CAG, in a Pool A match, after the start was delayed by 65 minutes owing to sharp showers.
Save for brief resistance in the early part, CAG had no wherewithal to stop the seasoned IOC from pumping in goals at regular intervals.
Early indications suggested that Indian Bank could manage to put up a stiff fight, but that line of thinking proved erroneous.
Had V. Kumar, who had only the goalkeeper before him, found the target in the early minutes, Indian Bank might have charted a new course. But it was Air India, last year’s joint winner, that forged ahead profiting from two goals by Shivendra Singh with assistance from V.S. Vinay on the flank.
A peach of a goal by V. Raja that evoked memories of his heyday infused some life into the proceedings at 2-1. But Indian Bank crumbled against Air India’s onslaught. A second goal by Raja in the second half did not galvanize Indian Bank either.
In a lively contest that came at the fag of the end day, IOB and Army XI were locked in a fierce tussle.
Notwithstanding the early dominance, Army was denied success for quite a while, thanks to Sreejesh’s splendid work. He thwarted two attempts by Binoy Bhengra and Arumugam, but, midway through, E. Lakra slotted in the opener.
IOB struck back when Shanmugam, latching on to a loose ball, beat P.T. Rao, India goalkeeper. And, minutes later, Shanmugam helped Adam Sinclair score as IOB took the lead at half-time.
IOB was riding the crest fashioning a wave of attacks after resumption, but inaccurate finishing came in the way. Vinod Rayar and Sinclair missed easy chances until Shanmugam, taking advantage of good move by Mudappa, struck again to enlarge the lead.
This was IOB’s second successive win in Pool A and it leads the table with six points.
The results: Pool A: IOC 8 (V.R. Raghunath, 3, Prabhjot Singh 3, Deepak Thakur, Didar Singh) bt CAG 1 (S.S. Bundelha). IOB 3 (V. Shamumgam 2, Adam Sinclair) bt Army XI 1 (Euazer Lakra).
Pool B: Air India 10 (Shivendra Singh 3, Arjun Halappa, V.S. Vinay, Arman Quesreshi, Somanna 2, Joga Singh, Sameer Dad) bt Indian Bank 2 (V .Raja 2).