They are at opposite ends of the great Indian hockey divide. Punjab, which have abundance of talent, infrastructure, resources and job opportunities are at one end. On the other are states like Jharkhand, who have talent but lack other facilities and, therefore, youngsters are forced to migrate to other states in search of better opportunities.
On Monday, both Jharkhand and Punjab 'bridged the divide' a little by qualifying for the quarterfinals of the Hockey India National Championships in contrasting style. Punjab overcame Tamil Nadu 3-0, scoring two of their three goals in the last two minutes, while Jharkhand had to play at their best to upset a strong Services 2-0 in a must-win clash.
Needing at least a draw to advance into the knockout stage, Punjab scored in the 53rd minute after a barren first half through Gurjinder Singh. Dharamvir (68th) and Akashdeep (69th) struck in the final minutes to complete the tally. Goalkeeper Sreejesh was at his best in the first session for TN as he pulled off a number of saves. However, the TN midfield fell apart towards the end, conceding three goals.
Haryana overcome Maharashtra
In other matches, star-studded Haryana quelled Maharashtra's challenge 4-3, while Orissa defeated Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy 3-0 to clinch their quarterfinal berth.
Haryana came back twice from a goal deficit to emerge victorious against Maharashtra in a well fought game. Former India captain and drag-flicker Sandeep Singh struck a brace for Haryana.
The Maharashtra boys lost the game but won the hearts at the Aishbagh Stadium with their fighting display as they kept the strong Haryana team under pressure well into the second session, leading 3-2 early in the second half. Their effort was commendable given that five of the players are unwell, suffering from diarrhoea and fever.
But the day belonged to Jharkhand. Under pressure to win in order to qualify, Jharkhand harried their opponents in the goalless first half and then struck through Ajitesh Roy in the 43rd and 66th minutes to seal victory.
Services, with the superior resources at their disposal, were the stronger and better-prepared outfit. But Jharkhand showed that in the end what matters is optimum utilisation of resources.
Ajitesh Roy, a discovery of the first Premier Hockey League (PHL), made the most of his chances while the Services could not.