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Jr Asia Cup M 2015
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JMAC 2015: India targets crown (11/13/2015)
--s2h Team
India came a poor third in the last Malacca Junior Asia Cup but can target the crown now in Kuantan. India being the most experienced side in terms of international exposure, can deliver.

Much water has flowed down between the strait of Malacca -- which hosted the previous Junior Asia Cup -- and Kuantan where the new edition will unfold tomorrow. Foremost to any Malaysian visitor will be the missing of King of Malaysia, Sultan Azlan Shah, who was then the president of the Asian Hockey Federation and also the chief guest of the prize distribution function at Malacca.

What more the patriarch of Malaysian hockey would have wanted than his own team, always construed to be third fiddler to either India or Pakistan, winning the gold. Malaysian juniors had a wonderful run that year under the coaching prowess of Dharmaraj.

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They had a young crop aiming next year’s Delhi Junior World Cup, and were determined to make a mark there with a four-year youth development program.

Yes, Dharma’s team defeated both India and Pakistan en route first ever Asia Cup gold; fittingly the same team finished above the both nations a year later in Delhi in the Junior Asia Cup. For the first time, Malaysians played the semi-final of Junior World Cup in Delhi, beating India in the pool.

The highlight of previous Asia Cup therefore is as much Malaysia winning the Asia Cup as India and Pakistan going down.

Malaysians before the final match against Pakistan wore a T-shirt which read: ‘I am under-21, or you?’ Wearing the same jersey, the full Malaysian team went to Pakistan bench and showed, and it almost pshyche d the visitors.

India, trained by a new set of coaches with Baljit Singh Saini replacing Mukesh Kumar, Thoiba Singh coming in as Manager, with Sandeep Sangwan in attendance, did well to finish third.

It was the same team, san captain Harpreet Singh, which figured in the first Johor Cup.

India defeated Pakistan in the league, with a beauty of a goal from Amit Rohidas, but went down to Malaysia in the semis. For the bronze, Koreans were defeated.

The poor showing of India reflected within a year at Junior World Cup where it failed to reach the semis. Junior Asia Cup has so far proved to be the harbinger of things to come, index of progress in the run up to the target: Junior World Cup.

Being the hosts India is assured of a slot for the next Junior World Cup, but as we said early, a good performance is a must for India to better its rating at Delhi.

Stars such as Malak Singh, Gurmail Singh, a hot property in the HIL auction, Dipsan Tirkey, present captain Harjeet Singh, rising stars Devinder Walmiki, Sampath, etc were all spotted at Malacca in the last Junior Asia Cup, but the greatest performance came from midfielder, Haryana’s Mor Singh.

Malaysia is not that strong a team now compared to the last, and Pakistan is a rebuilding side. Much is not known about brittle Koreans but India is a well settled outfit.

Now it is only expected the settled kings prove their worth. Less than a place in the final will be acceptable.

Harendra Singh, who could not make much of impact when he took the seniors for the Asia Cup to Kuantan, now has a chance to silence his critics.

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