New Delhi: The Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in the capital witnessed a goal-fest on Monday in India's opening match of the FIH Hockey World League as the hosts pounded 16 goals against a hapless, 70th-ranked Fiji team.
Penalty corner specialist and vice captain VR Raghunath scored a hat-tick along with Danish Mujtaba, while Rupinderpal Singh and Malak Singh got a brace each. Nithin Thimmaiah, Gurjinder Singh, Kothajit Singh, Manpreet Singh, Chinlensana Singh and Dharamvir Singh sounded the board once in the one-way contest.
India scored on six of the eight penalty corners they earned, while Fiji got just one which they were unable to convert. The rest of the 10 Indian strikes were field goals, showing that the team is working on its finishing. However, their real test will come against Ireland and China.
Raghunath (4th, 11th, 41st), Mujtaba (28th, 38th, 59th), Rupinderpal (5th, 35th), Malak (51st, 63rd), Nithin Thimmaiah (18th), Gurjinder Singh (21st), Kothajit Singh (46th), Manpreet Singh (50th), Chinglensana Singh (53rd) and Dharamvir Singh (55th) went past the Fiji goalkeepers Eric Niumata and Richar Eyre who took turns in the post.
India fielded three debutants in the easy win: Malak, Gurjinder Singh and Mandeep Singh. While Mandeep - who was the second leading scorer in the just concluded Hockey India League - couldn't get on the scoresheet, the other two were awarded Rs. 1 lakh each by Hockey India for scoring goals on debut.
India captain Sardar Singh said they got what they hoped to achieve from their tournament opener. "We stuck to our plan of keeping it simple and it paid off. It's always a plus if you start with a big win," he said.
India, ranked 11th, next play Oman on Feb 20 after a rest day.
On the women's side of the draw earlier on Monday, Ritu-Rani's team too got off to a rousing start handing Kazakhstan an 8-0 pasting. Jaspreet Kaur scored four goals while Rani Rampal beat the Kazakh goalkeeper thrice. Soundarya Yendala scored the other goal. They next play Malaysia on Tuesday.
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