In one of the intense practice sessions this year, centre-back Navneet plays the ball out wide to winger Satya Prakash, who covers an unbelievable amount of distance in a matter of seconds and delivers a magnificent cross inside the D-box. Ronit Ranjan, the team’s goal scoring machine, meets the ball with a powerful header but alas, it kisses the top of the bar and goes over.
This has been the story of the football team for the past couple of years. For a squad that has dazzled not just the crowd but even opposition teams, the results have simply not matched up. Going out in the quarters consecutively for the past three years, most embarrassingly to Hyderabad last year, has meant the ‘choker tag’ getting associated with the boys. It will be the demons inside, more than anything else that they will have to battle.
To make things even tougher, the Kharagpur team, led by creative mid-fielder Shailesh Mohan, has been clubbed with Bombay, Madras and hosts Guwahati, while Hyderabad, Jodhpur, Mandi and Indore find themselves together in a ‘Battle of Minnows’ in Group D. But pool distribution is not on the team’s mind, for they know that on their day, they can rout any opposition.
Five-time inter-IIT player Ravish Roy would want to sign out on a high, as would graduating players like Bharat Bhati and Sanat Mehrotra. One thing for sure is that the boys clad in the golden yellow jerseys will go all-out to regain lost glory.