’United’ India can lift hockey World Cup after 43 years, says Ajitpal Singh

Ajitpal Singh, who is India's only World Cup-winning captain, says that the objective for the current crop should be to lift the cup in front of its home fans.

Ajitpal Singh (left) feels that "the team which plays together can achieve anything".   -  M. Vedhan

A united India, “on and off the field”, has the capability to recreate history and lift the men’s hockey World Cup after 43 years, feels the country’s lone World Cup-winning captain Ajitpal Singh.

India’s only World Cup triumph came in the third edition of the championships way back in 1975, after a 2-1 win over Pakistan at Kuala Lumpur.

Since then the eight-time Olympic champion's best performance at the World Cup was fifth-place finishes at the 1982 and 1994 editions.

Read: 'Privilege to play India in the first game'

But this time round, Ajitpal has high hopes from Harendra Singh’s brigade and feels the fifth-ranked Indian team can do wonders if it plays to its potential and remains united throughout the event.

“Our team is looking sharper, more combined, fitter. They have now learnt how top handle hockey on turf. But the team which plays together can achieve anything,” Ajitpal said on the sidelines of the release of a curated coffee table book titled ‘The Illustrated History of Indian Hockey: A Saga of Triumph, Pain and Dreams', authored by senior sports journalist V. Krishnaswamy.

“But for that we will have to remain united on and off the field. Our target should be nothing other than winning the Cup,” he added.

The coffee table book was released by Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Arun Jaitley in the presence of International Hockey Federation (FIH) and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) chief Narinder Batra, Hockey India President Mohd. Mushtaque Ahmad, Secretary General Rajinder Singh and CEO Elena Norman among others.

The former hockey stalwart said anything less than semifinals would be a below-par performance for the Indians in front of its home fans.

“We should know how to handle pressure. We should finish in top four and after that it can be anybody’s game,” Ajitpal said.

Another hockey great Zafar Iqbal, a member of India’s last Olympic gold-winning side in 1980, opined with his senior team-mate and said the host need to play like “champions” from the word go.

“It won’t be easy as all the top hockey playing nations of the world will be vying for the Cup but India has a balanced team with a mixture of youth and experience,” he said.

“We have the capability to play in the semis or the final but for that we should play like champions.

“Definitely there will be pressure but the team is looking confident. We are now mentally much stronger and we should play tough hockey against any team,” he added.

The men’s hockey World Cup will be played in Bhubaneswar from November 28 to December 16. Host India will open its campaign against South Africa on the opening day of the event.

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