New Delhi: The Indian hockey team are back from Malaysia after proving a point or two to their detractors. The squad was not one of the favourites but made a mockery of the government's decision to demote them from the priority list by finishing third at the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia.
Indian hockey players have not got a warm reception for a while after an international tournament but the scene was different when the players arrived from Malaysia.
For the young team under a new coach and a new captain, the podium finish at the Azlan Shah was a major accomplishment.
"We followed the tactics of the top teams. The players played exceptionally well and according to the coaching that was given to them," assistant coach MP Singh said.
But while there are reasons to celebrate, the government's move to remove them from the priority list was a letdown and the coach didn't hold back his disappointment.
"Why penalise these boys, why penalise me? Why penalise the new coaching staff? This was done by the previous group of players and the coaching staff. I think if the government cannot decide whether hockey is doing well or not. Their priority should be to give all the facilities to the players," an angry coach Joaquim Carvalho said.
The new setup was put in place just 25 days before the tournament and not many including the Indian Hockey Federation expected a major result.
Going for an all-out attack policy, the Indians caught their opposition on the wrong foot but problem areas remain.
"Thoda bahut mistake hua ground mein aur aane wale samay mein hum log usko sudhar karenge. Thoda penalty corner practice karna hoga aur defence mein bhi sudhar karna hoga (We made some mistake on the ground and will rectify them in the coming weeks. We need to practice taking and defending the penalty corners)," skipper Prabodh Tirkey added.
A bronze medal may not be a reason enough to celebrate. But for an Indian hockey team that slipped from defeat to defeat last year, it could be the perfect tonic
Slowly the self confidence is coming back and the players are beginning to believe that they can compete with the best.