London: South Africa completed India’s last rites in the London Olympics hockey competition with a 3-2 win at the Riverbank Arena in the Olympic in an early morning match on Saturday.
Never having beaten India in a major tournament, South Africa consigned India to the 12th and last position, the worst finish by the eight-time former Olympic champions.
The dejection and the agony in the Indian camp were palpable even as a capacity crowd gave the Indians a warm round of applause. The affable Michael Nobbs walked off in a huff, Sardar Singh, usually obliging with his interviews said a “no-no”, and drag-flick specialist and an Olympic veteran Sandeep Singh slipped past like a serpentine.
With the ‘big’ boys unavailable, burly defender Raghunath stopped for an exclusive chat.
Saying that the Olympics exposed the shortcomings in the team, Raghunath said: “You may be upset, the crowd may be unhappy, but we are 10 times more disappointed because we have worked hard to get here.”
Raghunath said: “I know the knives will be out but please don’t hang us. We haven’t committed a murder. It’s a hockey tournament and we haven’t played well. So we have to find out why. But believe me, the team was united and tried its best. There is no ill-will in the dressing room.”
Their faces said it all and Nobbs was probably seething with anger as India repeated a story of missed chances and poor defending for the sixth time running. South Africa led 2-1 at half-time. In the 14thminute, Sandeep cancelled an 8th minute field goal from Andrew Cronje with a clever penalty corner conversion. But Timothy Drummond gave the Proteas the cushion at the break with a 34th minute field goal.
On a sunny and windy morning, India attacked well in the second half. SV Sunil, Shivender Singh and Danish Mujtaba looked good in the South African Dee but the goals never came. Sandeep wasted back-to-back penalty corner and against the run of play, Lloyd Norris Jones rode a Wade Paton assist to hit the top of the net (3-1).
With three minutes left on the clock, Dharamvir Singh made it 2-3. He did well to slam a fine pass from Shivender, whose personal scoring rate has been abysmal in the London Games. The Indians did not celebrate Dharamvir’s goal and the South Africans were happy to play out time leaving Nobbs’ boys to lick their wounds.