1973: We had the best ever combination

A first person account of the 1973 World Cup.

Published : Nov 23, 2018 18:52 IST

The Indians scored against the Netherlands in the final, but lost the match in the tie-breaker.
The Indians scored against the Netherlands in the final, but lost the match in the tie-breaker.

The Indians scored against the Netherlands in the final, but lost the match in the tie-breaker.

When I look back at the 1973 World Cup, I have no hesitation in saying that India had the best ever combination. A fit team, it played with flair and understanding. I led this wonderful bunch that had Charles Cornelius, B. P. Govinda, Baldev Singh, Harmik Singh, Ajitpal Singh, Michael Kindo and the late Surjeet Singh, who was in great form.

We made the summit. All of us were in peak physical condition, for which I must thank Jagmohan Singh, who trained us at Patiala. Even in the long final against the Netherlands, we were hardly fatigued. On way to the final, the only time we faced a problem was against Poland when we were 0-1 down. I substituted Surjeet with Baldev, and it proved a good move as Baldev scored and put us on the road to victory. We defeated Pakistan in the semifinals. It was a fairly good contest, but we had the upper hand. Govinda scored in the 1-0 victory.

BANGALORE - 02.02.2010 : Hockey Olympian M P Ganesh, former Indian captain and national coach, in Bangalore on February 02, 2010. Photo: K Murali Kumar.

We were pumped up for the final and attacked from the start. Surjeet scored twice within eight minutes for a 2-0 lead. He then nearly completed a hat-trick, but the goal was disallowed by the Malaysian umpire, Vijayanathan. It was a mistake on the part of the umpire, who acknowledged it later. The Dutch came back to level 2-2. We played three extra-time sessions in order to break the deadlock. In ‘sudden death’, Govinda, unfortunately, failed to convert his stroke. In fact, I wanted either Baldev or Harmik to take the stroke. They were hesitant. Come to think of it, I could have taken it myself, but I was playing with a new stick after my old one broke in the match against Pakistan. So I asked Govinda. The miss proved costly. The Dutch struck four against the two by us (Ajitpal and Harmik).

As I look back, I feel I should have stopped Ties Kruize’s equaliser in the second half. The ball went past my chest as I moved away. I wish I had taken it on my chest. I know it would have been fatal, but I would have stopped that crucial equaliser. Though the match was fiercely fought, the two teams parted as friends. I had a good rapport with Kruize. The 1973 defeat only goes to show that the best teams always don’t win. Personally, I had the satisfaction of leading a well-motivated team.

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