spirit helps Indians win against Pak
THE year was 1976. Punjabi University got a special request from the Principal of Government Barjindra College, Faridkot, to conduct a special annual examination for a lone student. The university turned down the request.
Another request followed with the detail that the student was not an ordinary boy but a player who had brought honour not only to the college and the university but also to the entire nation by representing the country in the qualifying tournament for Junior Hockey World Cup. The permission was granted and the exam conducted. The favour was granted for Rajinder Singh, the Chief Coach of the Indian Hockey team that won the Asia Cup, defeating Pakistan.
Aptly describing the situation, a seasoned Indian diplomat said, "Like its foreign policy, India's cricket and hockey have become too Pakistan-centric. If India wins against Pakistan, entire nation breaks into a bhangra and in case of defeat, faces across the country turn gloomy.
In a short spell, Rajinder
has put Indian hockey back on the path of glory. Before Asia Cup,
India's performance in the Champions Trophy in Amstelveen was also
Born in Sarlee village of Amritsar district, Rajinder joined the sports school at Jalandhar and then entered the sports wing in Government Barjendra College, Faridkot. There, he improved his hockey skills under the hard taskmaster Gurbachan Singh. Though, he is from the Majha area, he was educated in Malwa because his mother is from Bhairupa village, near Rampuraphul. His father served in the Railways, mostly at Ferozepore.
An introvert, Rajinder, entered the international arena in Perth as a member of Indian hockey team that participated in the Essana World Hockey Tournament in mid-1979. It was a sheer coincidence that the Indian junior team, of which he was coach, won the Junior World Cup at Perth shortly before he took over as Chief Coach of the senior team last year. How did he make the Indian team click against the Pakistan in the Asia Cup and Asian Games? In a game of win and defeats against Pakistan, India has established an upper hand over Pakistan in the past two years.
Asi te badla laina hai was the brief to the team that was fielded against Pakistan on September 28, at Kuala Lumpur. The same strategy was applied at Busan in the previous Asian Games.
Rajinder, who is said to be a good judge of the players’ psyche, meticulously worked on the players’ mind by firing a spirit of badla (revenge) in their minds well before the big match. Earlier, on September 24, the boys had lost to Pakistan with a margin of 2-4. In fact, badla is an in-built trait of the Punjabi psyche and Rajinder played this card to his advantage.
"I held an hour-long special session with boys almost every day to mentally prepare them for the match against Pakistan in Asia Cup. I told the boys that they are the best combination in the world at present and they can defeat any big team. I also told them that what face would they show to the nation, if they lost to their neighbour."
Rajinder says that he never loses sight of his objective of winning the tournament. "It was my objective to win the gold medal at the Asian Games also but it could not be achieved and I feel bad for it. However, winning the Asia Cup has made me forget the past ".
He said that the coach had
to make a lot of sacrifices. Not only does he have to spare a lot of
time for coaching, but also has to ignore his personal life because
training is a very taxing task. One has to concentrate a lot and study
the complete personality of the player, he is handling for training.
K.P.S Gill, Indian Hockey Federation Chief is fully involved in the
game, so much so that he also knows the immediate family members of each
player with whom he talks on the phone on a regular basis. Cash rewards
are given to all the winners. Members of the junior team who won the
World Cup in Perth were given Rs 1 lakh each. Now too cash awards have
been announced for the players. Sponsors also have announced several
incentives for the players.