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Azla Shah Cup 2011 Stats
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Two in-form goalkeepers are India’s strength (5/10/2011)
--K. Arumugam
Two in-form goalkeepers are India’s strength

The 18 Indians playing in the Azlan Shah Cup are now considered a force to reckon with. They have surely set the Azlan Shah stadium turf on fire.

undefined The quick change of opinion was a bit unexpected as the side was considered a lightweight by those who watched them let go 2-0 lead and end up the loser in the opener five days ago.

The defence still has the same inconsistent tendencies, Mahadik is yet to fully recover from the injury he sustained midway through in the Korean contest; forwards, despite among the goals, suffer from the lack of form of genuine strikers. Midfielders lend a solidity, but as Australians and Malaysian proved, they are brittle and prone.

Yet, if the Indian team here has retrieved lot of image and prestige, what with the stellar 4-1 lemon time score against the hosts, the credit should go to one department where nothing went wrong so far. It is goalkeeping.

undefined India’s two senior most goalkeepers, Bangalore’s Bharat Chetri and Bombay’s Adrian D’Souza, who don the cage alternatively, and imaginatively, and yet again established their credentials beyond doubt.

Coach Harendra has fielded Adrian in the Korean and Australian contests while Chetri took care of Great Britain and Malaysia. Irrespective of win-loss calculus, it can easily be said his choices worked, its goalkeepers who shone in all the four matches.

If this was Chetri who stood between marauding Malaysians’ victory and defeat in the second half -- who came almost scoring their third goal in the 60th minute through an immaculately executed penalty corner sequence – its Adrian who saw it off the Aussies in the entire 70 minutes the other day, barring a give away loner. That draw will now form the foundation for medal prospects is stating the obvious.

Some defenders, midfielders and forwards may not have been in the present side due to one reason or other but the senior most and most experienced duo of goalkeepers are here. This is one area India did not experiment, thankfully.

Goalkeepers mature with age, and it takes double time than it would require for other specialist players.

undefined Adrian’s come back was as dramatic and interesting as it was the case with Bharat Chetri last year.

Ignore and sidelined, Chetri was playing in a local tournament in Malaysia when asked to do last year’s Azlan number. He grabbed his chance, and went on to cement his place subsequently, leading upto Asian Games 2010.

Adrian on the other hand was mysteriously dropped for the same Azlan number last year, many thought that it was because of his articulation of players’ case before the 2010 World Cup.

undefined One of the three Olympians in the present side, Adrian was unlucky to miss all the Indian engagements after that in the last year. PR Sreejesh, another potential threat to the duo, filled in his gap.

Now almost after a year, after missing CWG and Asiad, Adrian was recalled and he proved those behind it are right.

Its interesting to observe the two goalies whom we all thought are consigned to history willingly or otherwise, emerge from nowhere and now stabilize the Indian success story.

We are mid way through a well-contested tournament, things might change, improve and even deteriorate. But we are assured this duo will go from strength to strength, which is a good sign.

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