The comeback…

This is a post I will write out of memory, this was a very long while back…. Mid-80’s, in the ’87-’88 range if my memory serves me right. There might be a few factual inaccuracies … I was a tiny-tot then, and just getting initiated into sports, though Boris Becker had already won Wimbledon and gatecrashed into the conscience, and Diego Maradona even more so by winning the ’86 World Cup almost single-handedly… I had just started following cricket, though Azhar’s three hundreds on debut had made him an instant favourite (rather, Baba’s favourite, and therefore mine) even before that …. but I haven’t had an Indian team play a great match yet.. I was way too small during the ’83 world cup. I needed a match…

And then that match happened…

Indian hockey was at the stage that West Indian cricket was in the early ’90’s, slowly but inevitably moving into a stage of helpless irrelevance. But there were still a few players who could really play… Zafar Iqbal, MP Somayya, Joaquim Carvalho, Mohinder Pal Singh, Pargat Singh, Thoiba Singh … and Shahid. Mohammed Shahid of the silken dribbling and immaculate skills, my favourite Indian player in those days, all sports included….

And this match was against West Germany (the Berlin wall was still intact), who were, I think, the reigning world champions those days. west Germany had their own talisman in the big, tough Karsten Fischer… Fischer was one of the first penalty-corner taking superstars of hockey. A few years hence, he shaved off his hair, the tonsured look enhancing his toughness and making him the ultimate baddie in sport for me….

I remember, in the first half, Germany dominated, and pummelled goals into our net. We scored one back, but they had built a sizable lead…

it was much of the same in the second half. Fischer scored a few… and with ten minutes or so remaining in the clock, we were trailing 5-1.

What followed was in my opinion the greatest fightback in Indian sports history, equalled (but not emulated) only by the Laxman-Dravid orchestrated heroics at the Eden Gardens…

We got one back through MP Singh who was our penalty corner specialist…. but well, neither Baba (who was watching the game with me) nor I celebrated much… this was surely a chase too far….

And then Shahid did what only Shahid could. He dribbled through the defence and scored a peach of a goal….. now most of you who were too young to see Shahid in action might not be able to appreciate what he was capable of… Assume Dhanraj Pillay at his best, and increase that by 20%. That was Shahid.

and that goal rejuvenated the team completely… you could literally see the team believe that there is a chance now….

Pargat scored the fourth off a rasping hit.

…. and there were only about three minutes remaining…..

But there was time for a last attack….. Can they? Can they?

And yes, they could. There was a fifth goal… and if I remember correct, it was MP Somayya off a Zafar Iqbal pass (well, it might have been the vice versa)… and we were off our seats, Baba and myself….

West Germany (5) – India (5) !!!

If there ever was a draw which felt better than a victory, this was it….