Hockey goalkeepers are protected against the hard ball striking their body, can handle without flinching the reverse hits by forwards and drag flicks from defenders. It is the taunts and barbs from people the custodians don’t know how to pad away or deflect. Even as the nation digests the hurt at the cricket loss, India’s 7-1 win over Pakistan on Sunday delighted Mir Ranjan Negi, the former India goalkeeper for whom the scoreline is etched in memory. Negi featured for India in its 7-1 loss to Pakistan in the 1982 Asian Games men’s final.
On Sunday, the two rivals met in the FIH Hockey World League Semifinal at Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre, London. The ICC Champions Trophy final, also in London, was on concurrently.
“Before the HWL semifinal started, close friends asked me the outcome and I said 7-1, based on India’s form in the competition. It was a gut feeling that an India-Pakistan game will be high-scoring. Winning 7-1 is special. I was at a loss for words to describe the attacking display by our forwards,” said the former India custodian.
Negi switched channels on Sunday evening between hockey and cricket, like other sports fans glued to the television. “India’s goalkeeper (Vikas Dahiya) was amazing and a couple of saves by him were out of this world. This team have been together for some time and the confidence was reflected on the turf. The senior players thought like coaches and guided their lesser experienced team-mates. It takes guts to absorb the pressure in an India versus Pakistan match in any sport. I guess Pakistan team threw in the towel in London at some stage.”
Pakistan changed goalkeeper Amjad Ali when the team was six goals in arrears. “The decision to change goalkeeper should have been taken at half-time. Six goals down is too late to replace the goalkeeper. Having seen the match, I felt all goals were not the result of his mistakes. He made saves and will be shattered mentally by now.”
Remembering the Asian Games final, Negi recollected that he volunteered to come off at half-time, but the coach had asked him to continue and substituted two others. “Syed Ali and Rajinder Singh were taken out and the quota of substitutions allowed had been exhausted.”
Negi refrained from analysing the Champions Trophy defeat, having not watched a full game of cricket. “I switched channels when India lost quick wickets at the start. Hockey was exciting and seven goals in a semifinal proves how much the sport can keep hockey fans entertained. Some of the Indian goals were spectacular and even opponents will appreciate the combination and execution,” he said.
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