Sher-E-Punjab are the kings of hockey
- Sher-E-Punjab beat Pune Strykers 5-2 in a mouth-watering final of the Bridgestone WSH in front of a packed MHA Mahindra Stadium
- VS Vinaya, DeepakThakur and Harpreet Singh Nagra score one each while skipper Prabjoth Singh shines with a brace for the winners
- Tyran Periera and Simrandeep Singh Randhawa score one each for the runners-up
This was a date and venue that no Sher fan will ever want to forget.
Sher-E-Punjab, which epitomises the traditional Indian style of hockey, was playing the final of the inaugural edition of the most path-breaking hockey league ever, and the players wanted to give the fans a night to remember, and they didn’t disappoint. In fact, Sher-E-Punjab’s demolition of Pune Strykers probably opened people’s eyes to the wider Indian style of hockey, blended with international flavours from across the border and an enterprising Aussie in their ranks, Mathew Hotchkis.
The Strykers had gone into the match as underdogs but they went one up in the 4th minute with a sublime finish from Tyron Periera to provide a dramtic start to the final. However, Shers, who sat at the top of the league for almost three weeks, were not going to let go of the glistening Bridgestone WSH Trophy easily, and rallied back in great force and style. What was on cards was a display of ultimate free flowing, dynamic counters and the most pleasurable hockey fans could dream of.
The packed stadium, a record for MHA Mahindra Stadium, included the Hon’ble CM of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan, Hon’ble Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken, Bollywood action star Suniel Shetty, Indian hockey legend MP Ganesh, Pakistani great Shahbaz Ahmed and other dignitaries from sports and glamour. They were treated to an wonderful exhibition of hockey from Sher-E-Punjab, led by the inspirational Prabhjot Singh, the opportunistic Deepak Thakur and the sturdy VS Vinaya.
In a contest played at a breathtaking pace, the masters of comebacks, Pune Strykers stunned the Shers with an early goal to electrify the huge crowd, but the Jalandhar-based team took control of the game without any delay to impose their authority, striking spectacular goals at regular intervals. Captain Prabhjot Singh proved his class again with back-to back brace of solo goals. Besides Prabhjot Singh, VS Vinaya and young gun Harpreet Singh struck penalty corners while the other goal came through the indefatigable Deepak Thakur who was brilliant despite tight marking from Amit Gowda.
Speedy Roshan Minz sprinted and fed Tyron Periera on the right, who flicked it high from near the baseline to an almost zero angle to catch custodian Sukhjit Singh napping to fetch the first goal. However, within a couple of minutes, the reliable VS Vinaya replied through the first penalty corner, pushing the back pass sent to him by Harpal Singh, diagonally to the right corner, to even the score.
Now, both teams pressed hard to go ahead, but it was left to the genius of Deepak Thakur to force a goal, his 12th in the league. Mathew Hotchkis supplied him a slow ball in a counter attack. Trapping it on the top edge of the circle, Thakur drew both the markers to his back with deceptive body dodge before whacking a lightening forehander that blistered past goalie Gurpreet Singh on his right.
Earlier, Gurpreet Singh stood like rock of Gibraltar in blunting three penalty corners from the Shers. The third one where he stretched his legs in time to nib three potential ground shots, was superb. When Thakur struck the 2-1 lead at half time, this goalie was left stranded without any cover from his mates.
The ruthless Shers availed a peculiar setting to go up in the third quarter. Amit Gowda disturbed Thakur on the left backline, and got injured. The speedy Sher forward, meanwhile, took the long corner, letting Prabhjot Singh to unleash a bullet of a reverse hander to send the ball home, even as Gowda was still lying on one side writhing in pain.
Prabhjot stole the limelight again with a solo that caught both the goalie and a chasing Gurpreet napping. This was perhaps the best goal of the WSH league.
The tale of Bikash Toppo told the trails and tribulations of the Strykers. His goal was disallowed twice, first in the second quarter due to infringement and two quarter later he himself was carried before punching the goal. Simranjit Singh Randhawa posted a last-minute goal to bring some respect to the scoreline, but today the Shers were unquestionably the kings of hockey. No one could argue that they were truly worthy of being the champions of the Bridgestone WSH league.