Hockey team returns to rousing welcome

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The young Indian hockey team that won the silver medal at the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup returned on Monday night.

Updated: May 24, 2008 09:08 IST
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The young Indian hockey team that won the silver medal at the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, returned on Monday night. And for once, it was bouquets and not brickbats.

In fact, there's more joy in store for them. There is a grand felicitation in store, with the Indian Olympic Association deciding to celebrate the early returns on its hockey investment.

"We weren't under any pressure or worried about failure. The boys knew that a medal would mean unexpected success. I would say it was a bonus for us," said coach AK Bansal.

But amidst the hype and hoopla, some of the coaching staff say the fact that it was an invitational tournament featuring teams playing developmental squads, should be kept in mind.

The technical advisor to selection committee, Ric Charlesworth, however, has sounded a note of caution. "We're geting carried away again. It's a mistake we make a lot, I think. The team that we played in the final is 6th or 7th in the world, and they beat us. And so there's a long way to go. But yeah, there's some good things about them. It's a young group."

For the toast of the team, the tournament's highest goalscorer Sandeep Singh, it was an emotional moment, given how life had come a full circle for the man who suffered a bullet wound and was left out for the Olympic qualifiers.

"All I had in mind was to work hard and show the people that I'm good enough to play, despite having been out of the side for so long. I showed them what stuff I'm made of," said Sandeep.

But everyone admits, what's sweeter than the silver medal is the exposure they gained ahead of the junior world cup next year and the senior one in India in 2010.

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