The Jaypee Punjab Warriors think-tank seems to be acquiring a knack of making curious decisions — sometimes sly, sometimes bordering on the stupid — in the dying minutes. Against Mumbai Magicians on January 20, as they led 3-2 in the last five minutes, Punjab had — unwittingly one assumes — 12 players on the pitch. It led to a one-match ban on their manager Jagbir Singh.
Against the Delhi Waveriders, as they trailed 2-0 in the last four minutes, Punjab took their goalkeeper off and bolstered their attack with an extra man — a perfectly legal move, but a self-defeating one.
For even though they were a couple of goals down, Punjab were still in to take something home from the match as the tournament rules award one point to the losing team, provided the margin is two goals or less.
In sport as in warfare, a move could be a stroke of genius or a tactical blunder, depending upon its outcome, which again depends on many other external factors: wherewithal to execute a given strategy, how smart/stupid the opposition is, and, of course, luck.
And so Punjab’s Jaap Stockmann, who has smothered close to five shots on the target, sat in the dugout and coach Barry Dancer sent in Christopher Ciriello to do, perhaps, what his 10 other players hadn’t, despite a few passages of dominance: score a goal. Actually, at least two.
As Punjab pressed ahead, the Delhi forwards’ eyes must have lit up at the sight of an unguarded goal. A counterattack was all they needed. And sure enough it came. As Delhi thwarted a feeble attempt, and Punjab scampered back, the home team’s visionary skipper Sardar Singh almost intuitively found Simon Child lurking on the edge of opposition circle with a long pass.
Knowing there was no custodian, appearing larger than life in hockey pads, to block the target, the sturdy New Zealander took aim, summoned every ounce of his power, and let one rip - more of a tee shot than a hockey strike. The outstretched sticks of two Punjab defender didn’t stand a chance as the ball made a bulge in the roof of the goal. With this third goal, it was Delhi five points, Punjab nil.
Jagbir, who took the fall for 12 men last time, stepped forward to field the questions. “We wanted to go all