There is palpable excitement among hockey fans as international hockey returns to Chennai after 16 long years, with the Asian Champions Trophy 2023 set to begin on August 3 at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium in Egmore. Adding to the excitement, Hockey India’s Chennai Chronicles Series revisits some of the city’s iconic matches, which have witnessed some mega rivalries unfold.
In the second episode of the Chennai Chronicles Series, former India Captain Tushar Khandker, who recently joined as coach of the Indian junior women’s team, spoke about the team’s outing in Chennai during the Asia Cup in 2007 and his regular appearance at the annual All India MCC Murugappa Gold Cup.
Tushar said, “In our era, Chennai used to be what Odisha is to hockey today. We used to have a lot of tournaments there and the hockey lovers in Chennai would religiously turn up to not just watch international matches but they also attended the domestic matches in large numbers. Even after my international career ended, I used to frequent Chennai to play the MCC Murugappa Gold Cup. It was a prestigious tournament, more like a season starter, and we all absolutely enjoyed the atmosphere there.”
“Similar to hockey fans in Odisha, the spectators in Chennai too are very aware of the game, they are familiar with past and present hockey stars and they genuinely love the sport. The crowd support was one of the reasons why the Indian team players also wanted to play more matches in Chennai, which is why many of us opted to go play the MCC Murugappa Gold Cup,” he added.
Tushar was also part of the Indian team that clinched the 2007 Men’s Asia Cup. The team then led by Dilip Tirkey beat South Korea 7-2. This win, playing in front of the home crowd, spurred the team’s resurgence in International hockey believes Tushar. “The Asia Cup in Chennai was a very big occasion for us. It was a chance to bounce back in International hockey, the victory became a platform for us to go on and do well in other big international tournament,” Tushar recalled.
Speaking about the forthcoming Asian Champions Trophy 2023, Tushar said, “I believe it is a very crucial tournament for the Indian team. While Asian Games in September is the most important outing for India with the Olympic qualification at stake, I think the Asian Champions Trophy will provide a good platform to test where we stand against the Asian sides. No doubt India are the favourites to win and I wish them the very best for both Asian Champions Trophy 2023 and the Asian Games,” Tushar signed off.