A day after Rhino kill, it's time to unwind and rewind

Unlike his normal regime of waking up early to hit the gym, German hockey ace Moritz F�rste slept till noon on Monday ' the long rest well earned.

The Ranchi Rhinos made headlines on Sunday by championing the first edition of Hockey India League (HIL) and a day after, F�rste and his boys decided to unwind in their individual ways and savour fond memories of a city that will last a lifetime.

While the skipper settled for a deep slumber, some of his Rhinos lounged by the pool at Radisson Blu. Others took a stroll on Main Road ' shopping and window-shopping. The night before, the team had partied hard, swaying to popular Bollywood numbers.

F�rste, who woke up only when this correspondent called on his intercom, was a perfect gentleman to agree to a brief t�te-�-t�te.

As the captain of the Ranchi Rhinos, he was the one who engineered the stunning win over the Delhi Waveriders in the maiden HIL.

So, was the pressure high?

"Oh, very much. But, I consider that it was the crowd support and deafening cheers that pumped in fresh energy into us in the second half," he was both candid and modest.

Before the grand finale, Ranchi and Delhi had met on three occasions. The home team lost two matches on January 23 and February 1, the other ended in a draw. On Sunday, the aggressive Waveriders outplayed the Rhinos in the first quarter, sending the ball into the net in 25th minute. They even dominated the second quarter.

What tipped the scales?

"We played really well in earlier matches with Delhi. But, luck was not on our side then. Yesterday, the comeback was tough, but not impossible. We were playing good, attacking and creating chances regularly. But something wasn't working initially. It was only after the second half that we bounced back and the cheering crowd worked up magic for us," F�rste chuckled.

Like his captain, veteran goalie Francisco Juancosa Cortes from Spain, who was guarding the net for the Rhinos, too firmly believes that the team's hard work paid off.

"We knew Delhi's strength and were aware of our weakness. So, the plan was not to expose our weak points, but keep denting their strong points. That's what we did. Our forwards kept attacking and counter-attacking, defence in form of Birendra Lakra and Austin Smith was calm, composed and rock solid. After initial hiccups, we bounced back and never lost plot," Cortes said over breakfast at the hotel lobby.

Communication was tough because of the mix of players in the team. How did they gel?

"Sign languages and an interpreter did the job for us," Nick Wilson from New Zealand chipped in.

"The key to our win was belief in each other. Initially, we didn't know anyone in the team, just a few known faces. Balance and harmony was important. I first gelled with people who seemed friendly and then slowly we all became friends. And trust was born."

For budding Indian players, the maiden HIL was a dream platform.

"What we learnt about teamwork and game strategy will help us a lot in the future," said Amit Rohidas of Odisha. "I can also speak in English now and have taught my fellow players Hindi," he smiled.

F�rste testified for Rohidas. He spontaneously peppered conversations with theek hai, theek hai instead of okay.

The ace player had a word of advice for Indian hockey.

"It is not that HIL alone will revive the game here. Nothing happens overnight. But yes, if those associated with the event start working in the right direction, in three to four years' time, hockey will be up and about once again. I see many stars in the making ' Mandeep (Singh), Birendra (Lakra), Manpreet (Singh) and Amit (Rohidas) to name a few. They all are so full of life and talent. They only need the push," he signed off.

Will you watch the next edition of Hockey India League?

Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com

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