There was renewed vigour and a spring in the steps as the 22 senior hockey probables stepped on the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex hockey turf for the first day of practice after the deadlock with Hockey India was broken on Wednesday.
As the players trained, coach Jose Brasa had to dig deep into his reserves of patience on Thursday morning to answer queries from the media and also put up with the well wishers who came to express their support for the players.
The first to reach the complex early in the morning was the Indian Olympic Association chief, Suresh Kalmadi, whose assurances had brought an end to the saga. The presence of the top IOA functionary was enough for the shutterbugs to get their cameras out and click away to glory.
Kalmadi posed with the players and former hockey captain, Dhanraj Pillay — the supposed dealmaker — and then wielded the hockey stick for a while before celebrating Makar Sankranti by distributing sweets.
No sooner than he had left the venue, actress and singer of yesteryears, Salma Agha, reached the complex to express solidarity with the players.
She posed with the players and left after symbolically ‘presenting’ them hockey sticks to start the camp and promising to conduct a concert to raise funds for the team.
She sang a verse from her hit movie Nikaah and termed the players heroes of the nation before departing.
The session continued for nearly an hour after her departure with players taking part in various drills in attack and defence before coach Brasa called time.
It was now time for the media to get precious bytes from the players, who uttered mundane quotes before leaving for their hostel rooms.
The crisis is now over and it is time to concentrate on the game.
The morale is high and the drama of last few days has only steeled the players to give off their best in the World Cup.
They are now looking forward to the inaugural match against Pakistan on February 28 but before that there would be lots of weight training and practice — and a few warm-up matches.
Coach Brasa said that he would start with light training at first because of the ‘extended’ break, but things are expected to become serious as the grand spectacle approaches.