Victorious hockey team returns

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The victorious Indian hockey team returned home from Australia on Tuesday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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New Delhi, Bangalore:

The victorious Indian hockey team is back on home turf today. Eight of the stars, including top-scorer Prabhjot Singh returned to Delhi. The rest of the team, including captain Dhanraj Pillay, landed in Bangalore airport from Singapore to a rousing welcome. India won the second leg of the tri-nation hockey challenge in Sydney, beating Australia at home - a feat that has raised the country's hopes for next year's Olympics. Joyous scenes In Bangalore, the airport was crowded, with hockey fans awaiting the arrival of some team members. When they did arrive, there was chaos, with fans and the media falling all over themselves to get their attention. After defeating the Australian team on their own turf, and losing only two out of their eight matches, the players were ecstatic. Pillay told the press that the team morale was very high, and the standard kept getting better with every match. He also said this was a good start to the run-up to the Athens Olympics next year. Said Pillay, "All have played very well. You can't mention individual players. It was a team effort." Teammate Sandeep Michael added, "We enjoyed the tournament. We had a good tournament. Everyone gave their best. The main thing was our seniors motivated us a lot." Pak matches The pressure at the tournament was intense, since India played against arch-rivals Pakistan. They won the first match 2-0 and drew the second 4-4 in what was a high-voltage contest, with a red card resulting from an ill-tempered scuffle. "Whenever there is an India versus Pakistan match, there is a lot of pressure on us players. We get phone calls from home, from India and from our relatives who live abroad, so there is a lot of pressure. They can take defeat against any other team but they cannot handle us losing to Pakistan," said team member Baljit Singh Dhillon. Looking ahead The Indian captain, meanwhile, said it's important not to get complacent, if India is to have any chance at the Athens Olympics next year. "In this tournament penalty corners helped us a lot. Dilip Tirkey scored four goals and we got field goals also. But we have to work on penalty corners, we have to work on field goals," said Pillay. However, Pillay said that the team would now focus on penalty corners and field goals for the Panasonic tournament coming up later this month, and the Champions Trophy later in August. Team coach Rajinder Singh said he is happy with the team's performance but added that it needed to improve ahead of the Champions Trophy in August. This latest performance Down Under should also help the team earn a new sponsorship deal. Castrol had been the sponsors for the last two years, but they pulled out just before this tournament.

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