2022, a memorable year for Indian Junior Men's and Women's Hockey Teams
New Delhi, December 29, 2022
For the Indian Junior (Men and Women) hockey teams, 2022 turned out to be a memorable year as the men's squad won the Sultan of Johor Cup while the women's side, though finishing fourth, gave fancied England a close run for their money in the bronze medal match in the World Cup in Potchefstroom, South Africa.
The Junior Men’s Team closed the year with a rousing performance in Malaysia, defeating Australia in the final after a nail-biting penalty shootout.
Led by Uttam Singh, India came up with a sterling performance to win the Sultan of Johor Cup.
“We had worked hard in our training camp leading up to the 2022 Sultan of Johor Cup, where we played practice games against the senior team as well, and we were keen to ensure that the effort would yield dividends,” said the captain.
Indian Juniors were without a trophy in the recent years, and weren’t very happy with that run. However, there was another motivating factor ahead of the final of the Sultan of Johor Cup. “In the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the Senior Team had been defeated by Australia in the final. When we came up against Australia in the Sultan of Johor Cup, we as a team decided that it was time for payback. We had played out a thrilling 5-5 draw in the group stages, and we knew Australia were beatable," said Uttam Singh.
The Juniors are now hoping that their seniors will start the next year in grand style.
“We as a team would like to wish our seniors all the very best for the FIH Hockey World Cup to be played in Bhubaneswar-Rourkela. We hope they can win the Cup and it will not only be a great moment for everyone but also will help further elevating hockey in the Indian sporting system,” he added.
At the Junior Women's World Cup, the Salima Tete-led squad commenced their campaign in style beating Wales 5-1, Germany 2-1, Malaysia 4-0 in the pool D group stage matches. Taking on a strong Korean side in the quarter-final, the team rose to the occasion as they beat Korea 3-0.
In the semi-final, the team lost to Netherlands, who went on to win the title. However, the Indians kept their hopes alive by entering the bronze medal match.
In 2013, their senior counterparts comprising stalwarts Rani, Savita, Sushila Chanu, Navneet, Deep Grace Ekka, Vandana Katariya among others had ended up on the podium at the Women's Hockey Junior World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany.
In what seemed like a repeat of the 2013 triumphant outing, where the bronze medal match had also ended in a shootout, India tied 2-2 in regulation time against England forcing the match into a shootout.
Though they lost the match, the tournament propelled the careers of Mumtaz Khan, Beauty Dungdung, Sangita Kumari, Akshata Abaso Dekhale, Bichu Devi Kharibam, Vaishnavi Vitthal Phalke, and Ishika Chaudhary who have become regulars in the senior set-up.
"Many new players have come to the fore after that tournament and you see players like Beauty and Sangita do so well for the senior side. It's so important to have a strong pool of players emerge from junior ranks and it's a healthy competition within the group to make the Senior team," said the skipper.
"Looking back, we feel proud of the performance. While the medal slipped away from our hands, the way we performed through the tournament gave us immense confidence for the future," Salima added.