Emulating their senior compatriots, the Indian Junior Women's and Men's hockey teams had much to celebrate about in 2022 with some memorable outings in the international calendar.
While the Women, got the nation to rally behind them in the FIH Junior Hockey Women's World Cup in Potchefstroom, South Africa when they gave nemesis England a close run for their money in the Bronze Medal, the Indian Junior Men's team lifted the prestigious Sultan of Johor Cup.
At the FIH Junior Hockey Women's World Cup, the Salima Tete-led squad were on song beating Wales 5-1, Germany 2-1, Malaysia 4-0 in the pool D group stage matches. Taking on a strong Korean side in the Quarter Final, the team rose to the occasion as they beat Korea 3-0.
In the Semifinal, though the team lost to Netherlands, who went on to win the title, Indian Junior Women's Team kept their hopes alive by entering the Bronze Medal match. In 2013, their senior counterparts comprising stalwarts Rani, Savita, Sushila Chanu, Navneet, Deep Grace Ekka, Vandana Katariya among others ended up on the podium at the Women's Hockey Junior World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany.
In what seemed like a repeat of the 2013 triumphant outing where the Bronze Medal match had also ended in a shootout, India tied 2-2 in regulation time against England forcing the match into a shootout.
Though they lost the match, the tournament propelled the careers of Mumtaz Khan, Beauty Dungdung, Sangita Kumari, Akshata Abaso Dekhale, Bichu Devi Kharibam, Vaishnavi Vitthal Phalke, Ishika Chaudhary who have become regulars in the Indian Senior set-up. "Looking back, we feel proud of the performance. While the medal slipped away from our hands, the way we performed through the tournament gave us immense confidence for the future," expressed Salima.
Many new players have come to the fore after that tournament and you see players like Beauty and Sangita do so well for the Senior side. It's so important to have a strong pool of players emerge from junior ranks and it's a healthy competition within the group to make the Senior team," Tete added.
The Indian Junior Men's Hockey Team, meanwhile, rounded off the calendar year 2022 with a rousing performance in Malaysia when they won the 2022 Sultan of Johor Cup, defeating Australia in the Final after a nail-biting penalty shootout.
Led by the dynamic Uttam Singh, the Indian Junior Men's Hockey Team had decided that nothing short of the Gold medal would do at the 2022 Sultan of Johor Cup. "We had worked hard in our training camp leading up to the 2022 Sultan of Johor Cup, where we played practice games against the Indian Men's Hockey Team as well, and we were keen to ensure that the effort would yield dividends," said Captain Uttam Singh.
The skipper further explained that the Indian Junior Men's Hockey Team hadn't won a trophy in the recent years, and weren't very happy with that run. However, there was another motivating factor ahead of the Final of the Sultan of Johor Cup. "In the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the Indian Men's Senior Team had been defeated by Australia in the Final. When we came up against Australia in the 2022 Sultan of Johor Cup, we as a team decided that it was time for payback. We had played out a thrilling 5-5 draw in the group stages, and we knew Australia were beatable."
Having done their bit in terms of providing the Indian hockey family with a moment of joy in the closing stages of 2022, the Indian Junior Men's Hockey Team hope that Indian Men's Hockey Team kick start the next year in grand style.
"We as a team would like to wish our seniors all the very best for the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela. We hope they can win the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela, and it will not only be a great moment for everyone but also will help further elevating hockey in the Indian sporting system."