India’s sole triumph in the hockey World Cup came 27 years ago. The memories are still fresh for those who played in that momentous tournament in Malaysia.
Sixteen men, six games and countless expectations are how former players remember 1975. “It was a momentous victory and I am proud to have led a team that played as a cohesive unit,” says Ajitpal Singh. It was under him that India defeated Pakistan in the final at the Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur. “Victory is not the only thing in big tournaments. It is about on and off-field discipline. No player could be singled. It was an exceptional team effort,” he says.
For Aslam Sher Khan, who played a key hand against Malaysia in the semifinal, the team was one of the best that India has ever had. “The team had a training session in Chandigarh before the World Cup. It was one of the finest camps organised in those days. The team gelled well and we had yoga and meditation sessions along with strenuous hockey practice,” he says.
Not surprisingly, the team had its of off-field controversies too. “The hockey federation was dissolved before the World Cup and the morale was low. But during the camp and once we reached Malaysia, the team kept its focus,” says Aslam Sher Khan, for whom the reception back home was phenomenal.
Twenty-seven years since, the former players are hopeful of a strong Indian performance. “The Indian team has the potential to make an impact in this edition.
“It needs to play on the lines of the ‘75 team — disciplined, focussed and fast — to compete against the best,” says Zafar Iqbal. He feels Germany and Australia will begin as favourites.
Sher Khan, however, feels India can prove predictions wrong by making it to the semis. “A top four finish is what I predict for the home team.”