It was a campaign well begun for Indian Overseas Bank and BPCL in the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament on Thursday.
IOB registered a 6-3 win against South Central Railway in Pool A, while BPCL, despite some resolute resistance from Steel Authority of India, won 3-0 in Pool B.
The victory margin for IOB against SCR fails to portray the gallant performance of the Railway outfit which fought tooth and nail till the final whistle. That it could not convert a high proportion of the penalty corners — there were 10 against the one by IOB — could be attributed to the poor state of the artificial pitch.
Moreover, SCR had to contend with the in-form P.R. Sreejesh. A few saves by the IOB custodian, declared ‘Outstanding goalkeeper’ in the recent Asia Cup, mirrored his athleticism and agility.
The credit for netting the opening goal of the tournament went to evergreen striker Adam Sinclair. He struck off a cross by Senthil Kumar with a first-timer that carried a touch of class.
He formed a fruitful partnership with Vinod Rayar. The pair, with assistance from Amandeep Ekka, was conspicuous every time it sallied forth. Shanmugam slotted home two in style.
The SCR attack was not found wanting. In fact, it managed to forge more sorties than IOB in the initial part. Poonacha was the livewire with Janardhan Gupta and Niaz Rahim contributing their share. Suresh Toppo was hard working and ended the match with a superb deflection to bemuse the IOB custodian.
It was an impressive debut for SAIL in the competition and against a glamour outfit like BPCL. Composed mainly of adivasi talent, the Rourkela-based squad caught the eye of one and all with its spirit and skill.
The attack was sharp, swift and skilful, and stretched the BPCL defenders. Led well on the flank by Alsem Lakra, the SAIL frontline carried a lot of punch. Special praise is due to goalkeeper Sunil Toppo, who managed to thwart a few incisive moves by former international Tushar Khandekar who was supported by Ravi Pal, Amar Ayamma and Hari Prasad.
What carried BPCL ahead were the two penalty corner strikes by Gurpreet Singh and a field goal by Amar Ayamma.
SAIL was unlucky not to hit the target even once notwithstanding several attempts.
Goalkeeper Swinder Singh managed to keep the rivals out. But one attempt in the second half by Rajin Kandulna smashed against the pads and hit the cross-piece, denying a moment to rejoice for the SAIL players.
Parry & Co. Managing Director Arun Murugappan inaugurated the tournament.
Pool A: IOB 6 (Adam Sinclair, V. Shanmugam 2, Vinod Rayar 2, Mudappa) bt South Central Railway 3 (Anamol Minz, Manjeet Kullu, Suresh Toppo).
Pool B: BPCL 3 (Gurpreet Singh 2, Amar Ayamma) v SAIL 0.
IOC v CAG (2.15 p.m.); Air India v Indian Bank (4 p.m.); Army XI v IOB (5.45 p.m.).