1980 Moscow Olympics mates Mervyn, Zafar insist India are Asia’s best by far

1980 Moscow Olympics gold medal-winning hockey teammates and good friends Mervyn Fernandis and Zafar Iqbal have been enjoying the action at the Asian Champions Trophy here. Seated side-by-side in the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium’s VIP enclosure, the former strike partners are often seen in animated discussions and exchanging notes on the proceedings.  

So what do they make of this Indian team’s performance? “Our team have the luxury of five drag flickers and all are brilliant. We have Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Amit Rohidas, Jugraj Singh and Jarmanpreet Singh. I think it is this kind of quality that helps a team make all the difference in today’s fast-paced modern hockey,” said Fernandis.

‘Superior side’

Zafar believes India are not just one or two, but several notches ahead of the current Asian opposition. “India are a far superior side, going by their consistent results in the recent past. Their ranking [World No. 4] is proof of this, and let’s not forget, they are the reigning Olympic bronze medallists,” he says.

The Indian forwardline has come under a lot of scrutiny for missing many scoring opportunities here, but both Fernandis and Zafar offered supporting views for the front-men. “Akashdeep Singh and Mandeep Singh are experienced campaigners and they have young players like Sukhjeet Singh and Karthi Selvam alongside them. Together they are doing a great job,” says Zafar.

Also Read: Asian Champions Trophy: India emerge victorious in final after scare

“If we are looking at the many scoring opportunities they’ve missed, how can we ignore the numerous chances they’ve created? Look at the number of striking circle penetrations. That’s impressive too,” says Fernandis.

There was a lot of hype created ahead of the India v Pakistan match which eventually saw the hosts comfortably prevail 4-0. Both Fernandis and Zafar believe the hype was rather unnecessary given the much visible gap in quality between the two teams in the current scenario. “The Indian team are way ahead of Pakistan, so that convincing win came as no surprise. But, the Indians will have to play a much more compact game going forward, like how they played against Malaysia in the league phase. It’s all about waiting for the right opportunities to strike and this Indian team are really good at doing that,” explains Fernandis.

No match at all

For Zafar, that Indo-Pak encounter was not a match at all. “I strongly believe that India v Pakistan is not a match any more. It used to be once upon a time and at that time, everyone, including me, was all praise for the Pakistani hockey players. They genuinely dominated India. But in the recent past, the trend has changed. In the last few years, Indian hockey have been far superior as compared to the standard of the game in Pakistan. There may be many reasons for this, including lack of sponsorship or administration issues across the border, but the truth is that they have a long way to go to come anywhere close to what Indian hockey has achieved,” Zafar signs off. 



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