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15th Anniversary of CWG Gold: When our ladies roar (8/3/2017)
--K. Arumugam
15th Anniversary of Manchester CWG Gold: Once our Lioness roared and scared the world

Indian women are being battered nowadays by almost all rivals in the FIH events, but it was not the case ten years ago. India was on par with England, The States, New Zealand to quote a few. Indian ladies had never lost to the African Champions South Africa till 2004. England (GB) now holds the Olympic Gold while The States won the recent Johannesburg HWL SFs. But there was time when our tiny-framed lioness roared and scarred the world's super powers.

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So disgusting it was last year that New Zealand whipped India for 8-2 victory in a test that was webcast. This was a new low.

India defeated South Africa twice at their home to win the FIH medal when Champions Challenge was introduced, and two years later another grand double (league and final) against the African Champions led by inimitable penalty corner striker Piete Coetzee was witnessed in Hyderabad Afro-Asian Games.

India lost by the narrowest of margins against reigning World Champions (Germany) and Olympic Champions (The Netherlands) in the 2006 World Cup.

It was therefore in the fitness of things that our ladies led by Manipur’s Surajlata Devi, won the Manchester Commonwealth Games, beating all top ranked teams including England and New Zealand. Can the present generation believe?

Today marks the 15th Anniversary of that Manchester Gold, which created a buzz for Indian women hockey much akin to Mithali Rai’s women cricket team of today’s.

The quotes by leading writers of the time, given in the coming paras, gives a a glimpse into what was the victory and its significance.

As always the team picked up SAI Patiala’s coach Gurdial Singh Bhangu was under-rated before the start. But insider know well that with the return of trio stars Manjinder Kaur, Pritam Thakran and Sita Gussain, who were unnecessarily trapped in an ego-ridden 'Misconduct' trail by the then IWHF Secretary Amrit Bose, and thus missed an Olympic Qualifier a year ago, are capable of wonders.

GS Bhangu, who succeeded Ajay Kumar Bansal as national coach, was a father figure who motivated the girls with the dream. He knew well four years ago his girls came close to winning a medal in Kuala Lumpur CWG, but just missed out. He was out to a sweet revenge. Vidhya Stokes, then heading the IWHF, played a motherly role in bringing back the stars for the Manchester mega event.

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Mamta Kharb struck golden goal in both semifinal and final to become super star while it was Suman Bala and Jothi Sunita Kullu who otherwise made the Gold possible with timely goals. India struck nine goals off penalty corners and it was fitting that the golden goal in the final came off from a penalty corner.

Earlier, Australian coach of England, Tricia Herberle, saw off Australia in the semifinal 2-1, which paved way for India to avoid the twice winners Aussie in the final.

Sita Gussain in the pivot, Tingu in the goalie, Jothi at the frontline gave extraordinary display throughout the week to surprise India with the gold. Each match is not desbribed here for the fear of repetition in the previous years!

This success led to genesis of Chak De India film, whose script writer Jaideep Sahni, a follower of this site, often said so emphatically. That MR Negi stole the limelight and walked away with undeserving credit for the film, is another story, unresolved mystery of our times.

CWG 2002 Results:
India defeat Canada 1-0
India lose to New Zealand 1-3
India drew England 1-1
QF: India defeat South Africa 4-3 (Golden goal)
SF: India defeat New Zealand 2-1
Final: India defeat England 3-2 (Golden goal)

TOP QUOTES FROM LEADING WRITERS (2002)

Claire Middleton: The Telegraph, August 4, 2002: The game featured remarkable skillm a stirring comeback and fairy-tale ending for India, all of which was hijacked by an umpire who crumbled under the pressure of officiating in a major international final....…. India, with their deft skills and fabulous tackling, held firm and Mamata Kharab, a young women with a golden touch, prodded in what turned out to be – about an hour later – the golden goal.

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S.Thyagarajan, Chairman Hockey Commission, AIPS, in Sportstar, Aug 17, 2002: The Indian proved how erroneous has been the assumption and projection of their capability.....English journalists who saw the Indian play in France (World Cup Qualifier), Manchester 4-Nation and even at Cannock (Vs USA test Series) are unanimous that its is unimaginable that India is not counted as among the top 16 for the World Cup…the girls have sweated it out notwithstanding the shortcoming, including step-motherly treatment from the media......

Sharda Ugra in India Today, August 19, 2002: The squad that averages 5 ft and 50-55 kg against the world norm of 5 ft and 5 inch and 60 kg, did not win gold on oriental skill or fitness alone, but because of the size of the fight they packed into their small frames.

Kamesh Srinivasan in the The Hindu August 5, 2002: By winning the tournament in which six of the team which have qualified for the World Cup were in competition, the Indian girls showed that it was the World Cup that will miss them, rather than the other way round.

Uma Bharti, Union Sports Minister: ......Minutes later when I got the cal that India had indeed won the gold I screamed and ran in even as people on the streets watched me in amusement.

Neeru Bhatia in The Week Magazine, August 18 2002: They played fantastic hockey in Manchester where the world’s top teams were in action While they played excellently in te semifinal against the Kiwis and in the final against the Britons, it was the match against South Africa that had turned the tide for India.

Manish Kumar in the Indian Express August 11, 2002: They burst into the horizon, a golden shower that caught the public imagination for its sheer freshness. And showed us all that you don’t have to be stars to enjoy the game…the trick, as these 16 girls and their colleagues have perfected, is to take the rough with the smooth, throw in a large help of good humour and believe in each other. That’s what they did; that’s what they got them the gold….

2002 COMMONWEALTH GAMES HOCKEY FINALIST
Indian Goldies: Helen Marry, Tingonleima Chau, Suman Bala, Kanri Baa, Amandeep Kaur, Sumrai Tete, Sita Gussain, Surajlata Devi, Masira Surin, Sanggai Ihembal Chanu, Jothi Sunita Kullu, Pakpi Devi, Saba Anjum, Mamta Kharab, Pritamrani Siwach. Chief Coach Gurdial Singh Bhangu, Coach: GS Gill, Manager: Rupa Saini.

England, Silver: Anna Bellet, Jennie Bimson, Sarah Blanks, Met Clewlow, Jo Ellis, Helen Grant, Frances Houslop, Leisa King, Mandy Nicholson, Helen Richardson, Hillary Rose, Jane Smith, Rachel Walker, Kate Walsh, Lucila Wright. Chief Coach: Tricia Herberle, Manager: Chris Pickett.

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