From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.33 :: NO.08 :: Feb. 25, 2010

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HOCKEY

1975 KUALA LUMPUR (March 1-15)

THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

By ASHOK KUMAR

(Winner: India; Runner-up: Pakistan; Third place: West Germany)

It is vivid. The whole journey, from the time we assembled for the tournament to returning home to a rousing welcome. It was one of the finest moments of Indian hockey. Kuala Lumpur shall always remain a memorable venue for all of us. Beating Pakistan in the final was the most emphatic statement we could have ever made. Needless to say, there was tension prior to the match but once the ball began rolling we knew we had a job in hand. That we accomplished it with some sensa tional play was a tribute to the hard work of every member of that wonderful Indian team.

The way we entered the final indicated the excellent form of our key players. V. J. Philips was in his elements when he scored both the goals in our opening match against England (2-1). We then drew with Australia (1-1) in a tough match. Ghana was an easy opponent — we won 7-0 — but the 1-2 defeat at the hands of Argentina meant we had to win the last match against Germany. The opposition was very strong but we breezed past Germany 3-1.

THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Indian skipper Ajitpal Singh (centre) and a few other members of the victorious Indian team showing the World Cup to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The semifinal was nerve-wracking. The fact that Malaysia enjoyed home support was a challenge, and there was not a seat vacant at the stadium. We were down 1-2 with about 10 minutes left. I could see my dream of winning the World Cup vanishing. The team was falling apart when Aslam Sher Khan stepped on the field as a substitute. Time was running out when I managed to earn a penalty corner. And Aslam made no mistake. We won in extra time when Harcharan Singh scored. The final against Pakistan took the game to a different level. We were trailing and Pakistan was beginning to dominate when Surjit Singh scored the equaliser. It was just the boost we needed. We had support from the stands and the game changed dramatically. We were all over Pakistan and then came the most precious moment of my life.

I have relived the goal many times. And each time the fans have asked me to share that joy, I have enjoyed narrating it. Philips initiated the move on the right and relayed the ball to me. I hit the ball on the run and found the target, much to the delight of the team and our supporters. Defending that lead was not easy as Pakistan made every effort to draw level, but it was our day.

The victory meant a lot for Indian hockey. It was India’s first big title after the gold at the 1964 Olympics. The felicitations were incredible and we were hailed as heroes. The great phase of India’s domination in the Olympics can never be matched, but this World Cup win would always rekindle fond memories of a great feat. I remember Babuji’s (Dhyan Chand) happy face when we returned. He was proud that a member of his family had brought joy and glory to the nation.

(As told to Vijay Lokapally)



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