Sardara Singh praises juniors for Azlan show

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Mumbai, May 21 (UNI) On a high after making a triumphant return from the 17th Azlan Shah hockey tournament in Malaysia, India captain Sardar Singh said his teammates ''did a commendable job'' to bounce back after two early defeats.

''Our start to the tournament wasn't that great and we had nine boys from the junior team but as the team progressed we started doing well. We took one step at a time and the boys did a commendable job, bouncing back at the right time,'' Sardar told mediapersons here yesterday.

Pointing out the fact that India reached the final despite fielding a relatively young team, he said the result was a ''positive sign'' and will help Indian Hockey get back on track.

''The juniors did extremely well. They played well against more experienced teams like Argentina and Belgium,'' Sardar said.

''They will improve as they gain more experience. This is a positive sign.'' ''This result will give a boost to Indian hockey,'' he added.

''It will certainly help in shaping up India's future in hockey.'' According to Sardar, luck and poor penalty corner conversion - Indian hockey's old ailment - was responsible for the defeat against Argentina in the final.

''Earlier in the league we lost to Argentina 1-5, but later we gave them a tough competition in the final. We were unlucky to lose by 1-2 in the final as we missed out 4-5 penalty corners and a few more field goals,'' he rued. ''Had we converted them, we would have easily won the title.'' The skipper was all praise for Sandeep Singh who put up a splendid performance throughout the tournament. The sturdy drag flicker superbly marshalled the defence and displayed a deadly accuracy with the penalty corners which saw him emerge as the highest scorer with nine goals.

''He did extremely well in his comeback and was the highest scorer of the tournament. Also there were other players like Shivendra, Diwakar and other did a good job too,'' Sardar said.

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