Hockey Perspectives

How Haryana Overcame Inadequate Preparations to Corner Glory in Senior Men’s Nationals

It was at Bhopal in 2011 that Hockey Haryana made its maiden final appearance at the Senior Men’s Nationals, where they vanquished a formidable Karnataka side 2-1 – a team that was packed with internationals and Olympians. It was after a hiatus of eleven years again at Bhopal that Hockey Haryana reached the final of the Senior Men’s Nationals and made it an occasion to remember, winning it for the second time, prevailing over Hockey Unit of Tamil Nadu 3-1 in a shootout after both teams were locked 1-1 in regulation time.

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Hockey Haryana was in rollicking form at the 2022 Senior Men’s Nationals – they scored a whopping 53 goals from their six matches. The Haryana outfit disposed off Hockey Maharashtra 5-2 in the semifinal and had accounted for Delhi Hockey 3-0 in the quarterfinals. Pitted in Pool H, Hockey Haryana started their campaign on a whirlwind note, pounding Assam Hockey 21-1. The Haryana lads settled for a hard-fought 4-4 draw against Hockey Association of Odisha and they wrapped up their league engagements with a 20-0 win over Goans Hockey.

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Hockey Haryana coach Sandeep Sangwan, who was in charge of the state side in the 2011 Senior Men’s Nationals, shares his perspectives on the tournament journey of 2011. “Look, Haryana was the underdogs in the final against Karnataka simply because they had a strong side. Karnataka had the likes of Vokkaliga Raghunath, Bharat Chetri, a number of Indian Oil players such as Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh. We had the likes of Sandeep Singh and Sardar Singh but we were up against a robust Karnataka side and the boys rose to the occasion, ” says Sangwan in an exclusive chat with Hockey Passion.

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The odds were stacked against Hockey Haryana ahead of their preparations for the 2022 Senior Men’s Nationals – the state side struggled to get adequate practice as they failed to secure permission to train at Astroturf grounds in the state. “We faced a lot of challenges but hats off to the boys. My boys were initially low on confidence given our inadeqaute preparations. Since our preparations were not on desired lines, we requested hockey people in Bhopal to allow us train and we trained rigorously for four days in Bhopal – we would train in the mornings, afternoons and even in evenings under floodlights. A lot of credit must to go Hockey Haryana Vice President Sunil Malik, who did everything possible to ensure we could train for the nationals – he was a big pillar of support for the team, ” reveals the Hockey Haryana coach.

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Sangwan – the country’s only FIH Level III coach along with Harendra Singh – has built a good reputation as an Assistant Coach of the Indian men’s team from 2011 to 2017. He is elated to see the state team emerge champions, surmounting the hurdles along the way. “My boys deserve all the credit for winning the senior men’s nationals. Gagandeep Singh was the youngest member of the Haryana side in the 2011 Senior Men’s Nationals and now he has captained the team to our second Senior Men Nationals trophy. We had as many as twelve unemployed first-time national players. It was a strong team effort that enabled us to win the nationals,” he says.

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The Hockey Haryana coach singled out players, who have the potential to represent the national side in future. “I think our forwards – Deepak Rohit, Pankaj and Mohit fared exceedingly well in the Senior Men’s Nationals. Fullback Somjeet, drag-flickers Deepak and Pankaj are also exciting prospects for the future,” says Sangwan, who has worked closely with four foreign coaches – Michael Nobbs, Terry Walsh, Paul van Ass, and Roelant Oltmans as Assistant Coach of the Indian men’s team.

Hockey Haryana is now awaiting feliciation programmes from the state government for their stupendous performance in the Senior Men’s Nationals. “We are hopeful of being feted for our showing in the nationals. So far no felicitations have been organised for us but we remain upbeat about it,” signs off Sangwan with a tinge of hope.