In a major embarrassment for Indian rugby, the team was left a player short against Uzbekistan in the Asian 5 Nation Tournament in Lahore on Friday after some army members failed to get clearance for the Pakistan trip.
India, the top-ranked side in the tournament, could muster only 12 recognised players and two more had to be borrowed from the management before the 14-member team ultimately went down to the unfancied Uzbekistan 23-17.
But the vice-president of the Indian Rugby Football Union Aga Hussain did put up a brave front and said that the players fought a hard game.
"14 players taking field in a 75 minute game was indeed very brave. And I am proud of the team. They were held the opposition at 17-17 for quite sometime till Uzbekistan got two penalties and bagged six points in the process," Hussain told PTI.
Hussain also defended the absence of players which accounted for the debacle.
"Any army personnel travelling abroad requires clearance from the Ministry of External Affairs. But the situation is so fluid at the moment that the clearance could not be obtained and hence half the team could not travel" he said.
Hussain also refused to play the blame game and said, "We had given sufficient intimation but it sometimes happens with army clearance, so it's just an unfortunate case and we blame nobody."
Hussain though hopes to field a full 15-member squad against hosts Pakistan on Sunday with one of the junior members soon expected to join the side.
"We will have 15 boys that will take the field as there have been no major injuries. And one of our players, who stayed back in Delhi for his interview will join the team soon after getting visa," he said.