'Azlan Shah triumph a morale booster for Indian hockey'

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/h/hockey3.jpg' class='caption'> Former hockey Olympians hailed India's fourth Azlan Shah title triumph that came after a span of 13 years.

Updated: April 13, 2009 13:03 IST
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New Delhi:

Former hockey Olympians on Sunday hailed India's fourth Azlan Shah title triumph that came after a span of 13 years, saying the win will provide the national team with the much-needed boost ahead of future international assignments.

India, who finished runners-up in the event last year losing to Argentina, today defeated hosts Malaysia 3-1 in the finals of the five-nation event in Ipoh, Malaysia to lift the Azlan Shah title for the first time since 1995.

Former India international and junior team coach AK Bansal said the eight-time Olympic champions desperately needed the victory to bring the game back on track.

"The win was very important. It is a significant achievement by the team and will help them in preparations for future tournaments. It is a morale booster for players," Bansal told PTI.

He added that although the competition this year was not of high standard, yet the win means a lot to the former champions who missed the Beijing Olympics last year.

"It's right, contenders were not so tough in the tournament, but all the teams were of equal strength. But to be fair, it has great significance as you can never assess a team's performance on artificial turf."

Former India captain and a member of the ad-hoc selection committee, Zafar Iqbal echoed similar feelings but cautioned the team about tough competition in the upcoming Asia Cup and 2010 World Cup.

"It's (the win) undoubtedly a huge morale booster for the team, but we can't think big about it. The team should now focus on Asia Cup and next year's World Cup," he said.

Ashok Kumar, son of legendary Dhyanchand, and a member of the ad-hoc selection panel, credited the victory to collective effort of the team, including coaches, officials and support staff.

"It's a wonderful victory. The win was very important to regain Indian hockey's past glory. It's a confidence booster for the team," he said.

He also heaped praise on young Sandeep Singh for not only becoming the Player of the Tournament but also for his leadership qualities.

"Sandeep led from the front. He displayed amazing skills with the stick and also a mature head as captain."

Gurbux Singh, a member of the gold and bronze medal winning teams of 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico Olympics, also showered praise on Sandeep.

"It's a good show from the Indians. Beating Malaysia in Malaysia, that too twice (earlier in the round robin stage), is really commendable.

"Sandeep's performance is really heartening. He showed great spirit even when the team was down."

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