Road running

Shamsher Singh, farmer's son from Pak border, scores out-of-syllabus PC goal

India went all guns blazing against Wales in their last Hockey World Cup match, launching a spree of attacks from the beginning.

A few minutes before their match had begun, England had defeated Spain 4-0, which meant that India had to score at least eight goals for a direct entry into the quarterfinals. But the World Cup debutants Wales stood strong, thwarting every attack. They allowed their far-higher-ranked opponents to score only in the 21st minute.

The goal was the result of a penalty corner, an area where the team is struggling. Captain Harmanpreet Singh’s shot at goal was blocked and Shamsher Singh, who was alert inside the D, scored off the rebound. This was his first goal in the World Cup and incidentally, on his 50th appearance for India.

“The positive is the attacking play. But our finishing needs improving. The start was good but we committed mistakes,” Shamsher told The Bridge after the match.

Shamsher’s goal was just one of three goals India have scored at the World Cup via penalty corners. Only one of those three was from a direct drag flick, scored by Harmanpreet Singh, when there had been no goalkeeper. The only other was a rebound scored by Amit Rohidas.

A lot of the rhetoric around India’s strengths and weaknesses have been on PCs. With Shamsher scoring a goal out of the blue through this route, he would have given a fresh breath of life to India’s campaign, and an extra asset to plan for when it comes to India’s opponents.

Shamsher confident of beating New Zealand

Shamsher, a product of Surjit Singh Academy in Jalandhar, was born in Attari, close to the Pakistan border, and comes from a humble background. His father, a farmer, often struggled to provide him with proper hockey equipment.

He made his senior debut in 2019 in the special Tokyo Hockey tournament, held before the Olympics. Prior to the Olympics, he only had five international caps to his credit. But his performances since then have made him a regular in the team.

Shamsher Singh in action vs Wales (HI)

For him, to be able to wear the India jersey and play his 50th international at the World Cup is nothing short of a dream come true.

“I am proud of my journey. It doesn’t matter whether I am playing my 50th match or my 5th match, as long as I am playing for the team. I want to continue giving my best for India,” he said.

Though the haste and the flurry of attacks against Wales, especially in the first half of the first quarter, seemed to suggest the hosts were playing under pressure to score more goals and enter the quarters directly, Shamsher denied that was the case.

“We stuck to our structure. We can’t say our performance was bad. We weren’t thinking about the results.”

India will next play against New Zealand on Sunday in the must-win pre-quarters to qualify for the quarterfinal.

“We want to maintain the rhythm. There will be no pressure. We will replicate the good performances from our previous matches and avoid the mistakes,” he concluded.

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