FIH Series Finals: Varun Kumar stars in India’s title win over South Africa

FIH Series Finals: Varun Kumar stars in India's title win over South Africa
FIH Series Finals: Varun Kumar stars in India's title win over South Africa
A hat-trick of goals by drag flicker Varun Kumar paved way for India’s  big win over Republic of South Africa in the final of the FIH Series Finals at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Saturday.India won  5-1. Earlier, Japan scored twice in last 40 seconds to beat USA 4-2 to take the third spot.
FIH Series Finals: Varun Kumar stars in India's title win over South Africa
FIH Series Finals: Varun Kumar stars in India’s title win over South Africa (Pic Courtesy – Hockey India)
India’s emphatic win not withstanding, there was something that was missing. The forward line failed to score in spite of numerous scoring chances coming its way. It may be because of tight marking by the South Africans inside the striking circle or poor finish by the Indian players.
It was only in the 53rd minute that South Africa got its first penalty corner. The second that followed few seconds later saw Richard Pautz giving a final touch to the flick taken by Jethro Eustice for a great consolatory goal for the Africans. It was the fourth final played between the two countries and India won all four.
FIH Series Finals: Varun Kumar stars in India's title win over South Africa
FIH Series Finals: Varun Kumar stars in India’s title win over South Africa (Pic Courtesy – Hockey India)
It was India’s day in hockey. While the men team won the FIH Series Finals at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, women team started its campaign at Hiroshima with a flattering 4-1 win over Uruguay. The Junior men, after losing all their pool games, defeated Austria 4-2 for their first win in the Under-21 Invitation Tournament in Madrid. It was indeed one of rare days when Indian teams wee competing in different sections in different events in international hockey.Though both India and South Africa have qualified for the Olympic Qualifier later this year, the game was not only of academic interest but also prestigious as South Africa had beaten India in the 2012 London olympic Games. In 2016, South Africa  decided not to play even though the FIH named them as a participant.
Harman Preet (Pic Courtesy - Hockey India)
Harmanpreet Singh (Pic Courtesy – Hockey India)

India started its chase for title in the FIH Series Finals with back to back penalty corner goals by Varun Kumar and Harmanpreet Singh in the first quarter against African champion, Republic of South Africa. Before the teams broke for lemon break, Harmanpreet converted a stroke to make it 3-0 for the home team to the great jubilation of the packed Kalinga Stadium. In the second half, it was a great final touch that gave Vivek Sagar Prasad to host India’s fourth goal in the 35th minute.Varun Kumar completed the tally with an indirect conversion to complete his first hat trick of the tournament.