The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, October 12, 2003
Lead Article

Badla-laina-hai spirit helps Indians win against Pak
Sarbjit Dhaliwal

Rajinder Singh, Chief Coach
Rajinder Singh, Chief Coach

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 impressive.


Rajinder, who is now employed with the Sports Authority of India in Delhi, is known as the ‘luckiest and most graceful player’ of his time. He was the best scorer( 13 goals) of the World Cup played at Mumbai in 1981-82. His performance in the other international tournaments at that time was outstanding.

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.

Hits and misses of Indian hockey

ANALYSING India's performance in recent tournaments, one finds that there has been a three-fold improvement in our team. These three areas are :

  • field scoring

  • penalty corner conversion

  • defending penalty corners

Gagan Ajit Singh, Prabhjot Singh, Deepak Thakur and Sandeep Michael — our forwards — have been scoring frequently thus keeping the pressure off the defence, both in defending and scoring from penalty corner awards.

Encouragingly, our penalty corner conversion technique, too, has improved as we are scoring more goals from this award than ever before. Though we suffered a major reverse after multiple injuries kept our drag flick expert Jugraj Singh out of team in the Malaysian tournament, we have an upcoming youngster in Sandeep Singh, who with little more training and proper grooming can be another Jugraj. Even our straight hit strikers like Dilip Tirkey, too, have been finding the target from penalty corner awards.

We also have a good goalkeeper in Devesh Chauhan. Our midfield has improved.

Besides players, who have successfully graduated into senior ranks after their title triumph in the last Junior World Cup at Horbart in Australia, the coaches - Rajinder Singh and Baldev Singh - too deseve appreciation and better recognition for their consistently good performances.

Rajinder had been a good penalty corner hitter in his playing days. Baldev Singh of Shahbad Markanda in Haryana, is known to be a tough task master and has produced several internaionals from an unknown place like Shahbad Markanda. If Haryana enjoys a place of pride in women's hockey, it is all because of him.