The Indian men`s hockey team had a reason to cheer after jumping two places to fourth in the latest FIH rankings on the back of its rare back-back-wins against world champions Germany and Australia in the FIH Pro League fixtures being held in Rourkela. Interestingly, India displaced hockey powerhouse Australia, who dropped one place to fifth.
Germany, who were seated atop after winning World Cup title in Odisha in January, also slipped two places to the third after losing back-to-back matches to India. PR Sreejesh and Co. won all their four matches, including two each against Germany and Australia, in their FIH Pro League matches played at the Birsa Munda Stadium, the world`s largest all-seater venue. India has mounted a spirited comeback to the game, after its shocking last 16 exit in the World Cup in January.
The national team emerged victorious in both the double-legged matches against Germany 3-2 and 6-3, while they beat Australia 5-4 and 4-3 in penalty shootout (after 2-2 in regulation time) in the first and second games. Not only the all-round performance took India to the top of the FIH Pro League points table, the side led by Harmanpreet Singh jumped two places from earlier sixth to fourth in the latest rankings issued by the FIH.
Also Read: Sreejesh`s shootout heroics ensures India remain unbeaten in FIH Pro League
The Netherlands, who won bronze in the World Cup, are seated atop while runners-up Belgium are placed second in the latest rankings.
“These things (world ranking) don`t matter to us so much. We don`t keep this in mind when we play. Our only priority was to convert our chances and keep the pressure on the opponent,” India captain Harmanpreet Singh said. “Some of the youngsters who got an opportunity to show their talent also stood up to the occasion and did very well for themselves as well as the team,” said Harmanpreet, who is currently the leading goal-scorer in the ongoing FIH Pro League with 11 goals, ahead of Belgium`s Alexander Hendrickx (six goals).
India played four matches at Rourkela in the World Cup, two in group stage and two in the classification stage, and won thrice and drawn once. India beat Spain 2-0 in the first group match and played out a 0-0 draw against England in the second. It beat Wales 4-2 in the last group match at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar before losing to New Zealand in penalty shootout in the knockout crossover game at the same venue to crash out of the showpiece. The team then won two classification matches at the Birsa Munda Stadium to finish at joint ninth place in the World Cup.
“We are happy to keep our record intact here in Rourkela. We haven`t lost a single match here in this magnificent stadium. Definitely, the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium is very lucky for us. When you get so much love and encouragement from fans, we want to go out there and win every single game,” said Harmanpreet who scored twice in India`s tense shootout victory against Australia on Wednesday.
(With PTI inputs)
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