Stage Set for 68th Inter-Services Hockey Tournament at Jallandhar
The contribution of Services to Indian hockey over many decades has been massive – it has served as a major supply line of players to the national team for major international tournaments such as Olympics, World Cup, Asian Games. Hockey talents among the Services teams will be put on display at the 68th Inter-Services Hockey Tournament that gets underway at the Astroturf Hockey ground, Jalandhar Cantonement from Thursday.
The Inter-Services Hockey Tournament is being revived after a three-year gap owing to Covid-19. The four-day tournament will feature as many as four teams – two teams from the Army – Army Red and Army Green as well as Indian Navy and Indian Air Force. Indian Navy are the defending champions having won the 57th edition when it was last held in December 2019 at the Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala, Kerala, when they outclassed Army Red 5-3 in the final – Indian drag-flicker Jugraj Singh had slammed a hat-trick for the Navymen.
Indian Navy is another rapidly-improving team and under coach Ajay Kumar they will be looking to leave a lasting impact in the tournament. Indian Navy had reached the semifinals of the 57th Senior Nehru Hockey Tourney at Hyderabad and were leading 2-0 against Indian Oil in the semifinal before they oilmen equalised and won the game in a shootout.
Army teams are in good form with two of their teams – Army XI and Army Green faring exceedingly well in the recenlty-concluded Obaidullah Khan Heritage Cup at Bhopal. Army XI made their maiden final appearance this season where they went down 1-2 to Railways Sports Promotion Board. Army Green not only reached the semifinals but also went on to finish third after out-duelling Indian Oil in a shootout after both teams are locked 3-3 in regulation time. Indian Air Force will also look to put a good showing in the tournament.
A total of six matches will be played in four days and the finals are scheduled to be held on April 3. It may be worth recalling that the Astroturf Hockey ground, Jalandhar Cantonement hosted the 38th Surjit Hockey Tournament, where Railways Sports Promotion Board won the final, easing past Punjab Sind Bank 3-1 in the final.