Destiny guided Araijeet Singh Hundal to the hockey field, where his inherent talent secured him a spot in the junior India team. The 19-year-old, standing tall at 6 feet 3 inches, hailing from a family with a rich hockey legacy, emerged as the catalyst in a spectacular comeback as India triumphed 4-3 against the Netherlands in a pulsating Junior World Cup quarterfinal.
The spectacular turnaround in the quarterfinal stemmed from Hundal’s exceptional contributions in the attacking third. Until then, India seemed lackluster, lagging in energy, slow to react, and defensively passive. Conceding two goals from softly awarded penalty corners, the team needed a spark.
Coach CR Kumar’s halftime directive for increased aggression resonated with Hundal, who injected life into the team with his off-the-ball movements, dynamic running, and powerful strikes. Early in the third quarter, Hundal embarked on a weaving run along the left baseline, setting up Aditya Lalage for an easy tap-in. Shortly after, he converted a penalty following a Dutch defensive infringement.
While Hundal’s brilliance took center stage, other standout performances defined India’s path to victory. Goalkeeper Mohith Shashikumar made a series of magical saves in the opening quarters, preventing the Netherlands from establishing a commanding lead.
Rohit, the defender-cum-drag-flicker, emerged as a hero in the defensive setup, particularly as the first-rusher during penalty corners. With the Netherlands pressing for an equalizer in the dying moments, Rohit’s brave blocks denied them, putting his body on the line to secure India’s spot in the semifinals.
India’s resilient team effort in the face of adversity sets the stage for an eagerly anticipated clash with Germany, with the memories of the previous edition’s defeat fueling their determination to emerge victorious this time.