The Indian men's hockey team began their ongoing Asian Games campaign in Hangzhou in a majestic manner as they routed Uzbekistan 16-0 in their opening fixture on Sunday, September 24.
The Pool A match began with the news of skipper Harmanpreet Singh opting out. He was rested after shouldering the responsibility of being the joint flag-bearer alongside Olympic bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain during the opening ceremony of the event on Saturday, September 23.
Coming back to the contest, the trio of Mandeep Singh, Varun Kumar and Lalit Upadhyay scored hat-tricks each and stood out among everyone else in the game. Ranked 66th in the world, Uzbekistan were not being rated very highly before the start of the game and that's what it turned out to be.
Lalit (7th, 24th, 37th, 53rd) and Varun (12th, 36th, 50th, 52nd) were the two most successful players in the contest as they penetrated the Uzbek defence on four occasions each whereas Mandeep (18th, 27th and 28th) scored thrice to add to the ever-mounting pressure on Uzbekistan.
Abhishek (17th), Amit Rohidas (38th), Sukhjeet (42nd), Shamsher Singh (43rd) and Sanjay (57th) also cashed in big time and made the opportunities count that came their way. The Uzbek defenders managed to keep the Indian attack at bay for the first seven minutes of the game but as soon as Lalit scored the first goal it opened the floodgates and triggered an absolute goal fest.
India got as many as 14 penalty corners but could only convert five out of those and the team management headed by coach Craig Fulton would surely want to reflect on the same as the upcoming matches are expected to test the unit.
The world-ranked three side India will now take on Singapore in their next fixture on Tuesday, September 26.