Monday, November 29, 1999

Azlan Shah Cup: Impressive India share title with South Korea

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Ipoh (Malaysia), May 16 (IANS) Defending champions India retained the Azlan Shah Cup hockey title, winning it for the fifth time, after they were declared joint winners with South Korea as heavy rains washed out the final Sunday.Only seven minutes of play was possible before rains came down heavily at the Azlan Shah Stadium. The teams were declared joint winners after over an hour following incessant rains.'After discussions and consultations between Tournament Director Paul Richards, the organising committee, with the consent of His Royal Highness Sultan Azlan Shah decided that India and Korea will be joint champions for the 19th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup,' the organisers said in a statement.India won the tournament for the fifth time and second in a row. They had earlier won the championship in 1985, 1991, 1995 and 2009.This is the first time in the history of the tournament that the title was shared by two teams.Rain played havoc on the last day of the tournament. Australia won the bronze, beating Malaysia 5-3 while Pakistan ended up in fifth place when they defeated China 6-5 on penalty strokes in the rain-marred contest.Notwithstanding the final day dampner, India had an impressive outing and finished at the top of the seven-team pool with 13 points.The defending champions started on a slow note, drawing with China in the first match before picking up pace with victories against arch-rivals Pakistan, Australia and South Korea. They slumped to their only defeat of the tournament, losing to hosts Malaysia, but routed Egypt 7-1 in the last game to qualify for the final.This was the Indian team's first international outing since the World Cup at home, where they finished eighth and the senior players in the side drew flak for their disappointing show.The selectors decided to include new faces in the team and left out senior players like Prabhjot Singh, Sandeep Singh and Deepak Thakur among others.The team responded well under skipper Rajpal Singh in the tournament. Their defence and penalty corner conversions were the weak points, but the free-flowing mid-fielders played a vital role.Experienced Arjun Halappa was the fulcrum in the midfield with Bharat Chikkara and Vikas Pillay playing their part. Gurbaj Singh and Prabodh Tirkey controlled the flanks superbly.Also, the forward line of Tushar Khandekar, Shivendra Singh and skipper Rajpal put up an admirable performance.India scored 21 goals in six matches, six of them coming through penalty corners. Tushar scored five goals for India.

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