To say IOC is a fantastic team because of its international players — 12 to be precise — is to state the obvious. The real reason for its successful record, especially in 2018 & 2019 where it has won eight of the 11 tournaments it took part, is the near-perfect understanding between the players.
All of it was evident in the final of the MCC-Murugappa Gold Cup all-India hockey tournament when it tamed Punjab National Bank (PNB) 3-1.
Gurjinder Singh has always been a big-match player in domestic hockey. In the last edition, he was instrumental in IOC’s title triumph.
This time too, the 25-year-old turned out to be the hero, scoring a brace, as the side retained the crown.
After a tight first quarter which witnessed strong defence from both teams, it was Gurjinder who opened the account in the second when he deftly pushed one into the net off Raghunath’s penalty corner conversion.
For its part, PNB played well within its limitations. Abhishek, Sumit Toppo and Vishal Antil tried their best in finding the back of the net. Moreover, penalty corner specialist Mandeep Mor couldn’t do much.
IOC continued to put pressure and a second goal ensued. Gurjinder’s powerful shot off its second corner strike sounded the boards.
PNB got one back through Vishal Antil, who was quick to score off a rebound in a penalty corner conversion after Mandeep’s direct shot ricocheted off the custodian’s leg.
With three minutes remaining for the final whistle, PNB got a penalty corner. But Mandeep’s shot went wide off the left post.
Deepak Thakur, the wily old fox, scored his second goal of the tournament when he tapped one off a cross from Rahil Mosin.
In a match that was decided on penalty corners, IOC showed its class. However, it has to be mentioned that IOC’s penalty corner conversion in the tournament has been quite poor. Off the 46 PCs it got, it could convert only 10. In the league, its conversion record stood at 20%.
“We knew the match would be decided on PCs. They (PNB) employed half-court press and did well. So we already had our plans set,” said Devesh Chauhan, the IOC manager and a former international.
“We had done well in domestic tournaments, winning eight last year and three this year — Bengaluru super division, Bengaluru Cup and MCC-Murugappa Cup.”
IOC captain Raghunath reiterated that the reason for its success was its unity off the field.
IOC received ₹6 lakhs while PNB was richer by ₹3 lakhs.
M.M. Murugappan, Executive Chairman, Murugappa Group, gave away the prizes.
The results (final):
IOC 3 (Gurjinder Singh 23, 38, Deepak Thakur 59) bt PNB 1 (Vishal Antil 44).
Special prizes: Best forward: Affan Yousuf (IOC); Best midfielder: Pardeep Mor (CST); Best goal-keeper: Jasbir Singh (PNB); Most promising player: Mandeep Mor (PNB); Best defensive player: T. Satish (TN).
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