By Paritosh Pramanik
NAGPURIANS have once again played a major part in helping Indian Railways hockey team clinch a title. Like on several occasions earlier, star midfielder and captain of Indian Railways Syed Niyaz Rahim, who hails from Nagpur and has learned the tricks of trade at city grounds, escorted his side to win the prestigious 94th edition of Murugappa Gold Cup in Chennai on Sunday. Apart from Rahim, goalkeeper Mujahid Khan, also from Nagpur, was excellent in the competition. In the final played at Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium in Chennai, Indian Railways toyed with the Karnataka team which boasted with former Olympians like Nitin Thimmiah and SV Sunil. The match turned out to be a one-sided affair as the railmen won the battle 5-2. Indian Railways won a cash purse of Rs seven lakh while Karnataka received Rs five lakh. Had it not been goalkeeper Mujahid, who made crucial saves in the final, Indian Railways would have to fight out hard for the crown. “Mujahid was great under the bar in the final. He made crucial saves which helped us keep the lead. He was making his comeback in the team after a long gap and he showed great maturity in the summit clash,” said captain Rahim, who lifted the title as captain for the first time.
On his part Mujahid, who was out of the team for more than two years, said that he was determined to make a comeback after injury. “I was out of the team due to injury. After recovering all I wanted to be back in the Indian Railways team and I religiously trained hard to make a comeback,” said the goalkeeper. Midfielder Rahim was part of the Indian Railways team when they last won the Murugappa Cup in 2018. Rahim has been the lucky charm for Indian Railways side as under his captainship the railmen have won almost all the major hockey tournaments of the country including Nehru Gold Cup, Shastri Gold Cup, Surjeet Gold Cup, to name a few, apart from the National Championships. “Our team played really well. Especially in the final, Karnataka fielded a relatively young side but still they had Thimmiah and Sunil in their ranks. We played with a plan and succeeded in taking an early lead. We played with experience and that’s the reason we won so handsomely,” stated Rahim who has been part of the Railways team since 2017.
Rahim works for South East Railways while Mujahid is employed at Central Railways Nagpur. For records, Railways took the lead just a couple of minutes into the meet, with Pratap Lakra netting the opener via a penalty corner. In the 17th minute, Thrishul Ganapathi scored the equaliser with a penalty corner. Lakra then scored twice in the 24th and 29th minutes as Railways led 3-1 at half-time. Following the restart, Indian Railways improved their lead with a couple of field goals from Ajit Pandey (36th) and Deepak (42nd). In the final quarter, Karnataka’s Chethan Karisiri scored a field goal in the 52nd minute before the final hooter ensured Railways’ triumph. Indian Railways remained unbeaten in the tournament as they thrashed Central Secretariat 9-1, drew with Karnataka 1-1, beat Navy 4-1 in league round. In the semi-final, they defeated Punjab National Bank 3-2.