Amidst serious competition, the Harjeet Singh led side made it big in people's hearts.
In a year when the Indian cricket team touched greater heights, the kabaddi team stamped their authority once again and the basketball squad took big strides, it was a group of 25 boys who touched every Indian's heart by winning the Hockey Junior World Cup.
No wonder, fans around the country voted for the Indian junior hockey team as the DNA Sports Team of the Year. The junior stick wizards got 1480 votes, which accounted for 44.25% of the total votes cast. The basketball team garnered 1240 votes, followed by senior hockey team (236), cricket team (212) and kabaddi team (177).
"I would firstly like to thank DNA for recognising our achievements and shortlisting us, and then the fans who voted for us," India's Junior World Cup-winning captain Harjeet Singh said.
"What we achieved as a junior team is just the start. Hockey didn't have a lot of support earlier, but now people are loving hockey again in India. Even your polls show that. We should build on this support from here on, and hockey in India will surely be on the rise," he added.
The World Cup win wasn't just a flash in the pan. The Indian colts' 2016 has been defined by consistent results, something that has been alien to Indian hockey. Be it victories in the 4-nation tournament in Valencia or the EurAsia Hockey Cup, the Indian junior hockey team had tremendous success leading up to the World Cup in Lucknow.
It thus wasn't a surprise that a bunch of baby-faced boys showed immense maturity to remain focussed on their mission of getting the Junior World Cup back to the country after 15 years, even under the huge burden of expectations.
"For the first time, I saw a crowd of about 25,000 watching a hockey match," Harjeet said about the importance of crowd support during the campaign in Lucknow. "For all of us, we had never seen so many people watching India play hockey before. Playing in front of that kind of crowd is a different feeling altogether. We could hear chants of 'c'mon India' on the field more than instructions from our teammates. That gave us a lot of confidence. Whatever expectations people from around the country had from this team, we played exactly like that and delivered."
According to Harjeet, it wasn't just a fruitful year for the junior team but for Indian hockey overall.
"This was a terrific year for Indian hockey on the whole. The senior team reached the quarterfinals at the Olympics after a long time, the women's team has won key tournaments, so has the junior and sub-junior teams. So, 2016 has been a really successful year for the entire hockey fraternity in the country, and I am sure the future will be even better for Indian hockey," Harjeet said.