India might have lost to Pakistan in the summit clash of men’s hockey in the 12th South Asian Games but captain Mandeep Antil today sought to take the positives from the performance of his players, saying they have done well given the inexperience of the team.
With the country’s top players taking part in the ongoing Hockey India League, India fielded an inexperienced team mostly consisting of junior players and they failed to click as a unit in the SAG. India settled for the silver medal after losing twice to arch-rivals Pakistan, including in the final 0-1 here last night.
India had just two senior players who had played some international matches in Antil himself and veteran Gurbaj Singh. Even Antil has played just 20-odd international matches while Gurbaj has donned India colours in more than 200 games.
Pakistan had at least six players who played in the London Olympics.
Antil said he was disappointed to have lost to Pakistan in the final, which he felt was a close match.
“Any loss to Pakistan at any level is a disappointment. We wanted to win the gold but we could not do it. We played better (than the group match which also India lost 1-2) and it was a close match but we lost again,” Antil told PTI here.
“But overall we played a very good tournament. The team is an inexperienced one. The Pakistani team had 7-8 senior players while in our case, 13 (out of the 18) are junior players. So, given the inexperience of our players, we did well in the tournament,” he added.
India struggled in the four matches they played in the tournament, failing to get the combination right. They could not score many goals even against minnows like Bangladesh (4-1) and Sri Lanka (3-0).
The skipper, however, felt that the junior players have benefited from taking part in the Games.
“For the junior players, it was an opportunity to play for India at the senior level and they must have learnt something or the other from this tournament,” said Antil.
He said that there was good camaraderie among the Indian and Pakistani players even though they were playing in a tournament for the first time after the 2014 Champions Trophy semifinal match in Bhubaneswar, which Pakistan won 4-3 in a thriller.
Two Pakistani players were suspended and one reprimanded for making obscene gestures after the match and Hockey India had threatened to severe all hockey ties with Pakistan unless they issued an apology.
“There’s no issue now. Our players and Pakistan players mixed up well. We now don’t think of that incident,” he said.