The ‘experience quotient’ in the Indian forwardline was missing owing to the absence of Akashdeep Singh and Lalit Kumar Upadhyay for the FIH Pro League games against New Zealand and Spain. It meant that there was larger responsibility on Mandeep Singh to shoulder more responsiblity upfront – and he just lived up to expectations, wriggling the Blueshirts out of potential trouble when they trailed 1-3 in the third quarter – to make matters worse, Sumit was serving a ten-minute yellow card after being earlier green-carded in the same quarter.
Mandeep came to the party, engineering a penalty stroke from which skipper Harmanpreet Singh profited to make the scoreline 2-3 – he restored parity in the final quarter deflecting home a rasping Mandeep Mor shot from the left – the Punjab da Puttar put India ahead whipping home a fierce shot from the right – a goal that turned out to be the match-winner.
New Zealand, looking for their first win in India in six years, must have felt they had the game in their bag with a cosy 3-1 lead midway through the second-half riding on a brace from Sam Lane and a goal from Jake Smith but the Indian late resilience prove to be their undoing. The Black Sticks haven’t beaten India since their 2-1 win in the 2019 Olympic Test Event in Tokyo.
Earlier, Mandeep Mor, striving to seal a permanent spot in the Indian deep defence amidsts cut-throat competition for places, drew first blood in the closing stages of the opening quarter making the most of a precise Nilakanta Sharma pass. A strong collective team effort saw India seal pull off a win but it was a day to remember for the two Mandeeps (Singh and Mor).
This was India’s 57th win over New Zealand in 103 international meetings.