Bhubaneswar: Terming the ongoing FIH World Cup “very tough”, legendary full-back and former India hockey skipper Dilip Tirkey has praised the home sides performance in the showpiece event.
With the Indian side preparing for the crucial quarter-final clash against the Netherlands at the Kalinga Stadium here on Thursday, Tirkey said the Manpreet Singh-led side’s game sense has improved massively.
“I would rate it as a very tough World Cup. Considering the difficulty level, India have performed brilliantly,” Tirkey said while addressing a group of 30 young scribes from across the country and neighbouring nations at the SJFI Young Reporters Programme here.
“Our team is one of the fittest teams in this World Cup. The way we are attacking, I can rate it as one of the best. Even group tackling, particularly in the match against Canada has been of top quality. Game sense has improved tremendously.
“We have seen a lot of short corner goals while the penetration inside the D has been impressive this World Cup,” he added.
On being asked how has the Indian team’s playing style changed from his days, Tirkey said: “Today we are playing total hockey, where a full back is allowed to march forward which gives a lot of liberty to the midfielders and the forwards while during our days the positions were marked.”
“The game has become much more flexible while during my days it was more rigid or traditional,” he added.
Tirkey, who hails from the hockey hub of the country — the tribal regions of Odisha — praised the state government’s efforts in reviving the traditional sport’s popularity across the country.
“There was a day when no one came to watch hockey matches or for that matter the audience was very much scattered but today the scene in Indian hockey has changed,” he said.
“We are experiencing a dearth of tickets this World Cup and it is all due of the efforts of the Odisha government in promoting the game and the love of the fans that has helped revive the popularity of this great game.
“The Kalinga Stadium is a world class effort. Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik has focused and invested a lot on sports, particularly hockey. Kalinga Lancers was the first government-owned franchise in the country, hosting the HWL Finals, then the World Cup, it is getting bigger,” he added.