India pays the price for running into resilient Australia

You could have predicted the Australian backlash after the side lost 2-3 to England in the opening match of the Hero Honda FIH World Cup. And when the Indians were unable to replicate the intensity showed for most of their opening game against Pakistan, it became clear that only one side would win the game on Tuesday.

If collective will of the goodly crowd could have resulted in a few goals, India would have won by a handsome margin but in the end, the match was a testimony to the famed Australian traits of grit and resilience as well as its players’ ability to actualise their coach’s plans. A 5-2 verdict in favour of the Australians seemed a fair result for the efforts that the teams showcased.

Even if the world acknowledges England as the most improved side in the past couple of years, Australia was not expected to lose its opening game against that team. Its goal-scoring skills seemed to have deserted the team from Down Under in that match but on Tuesday, it found the target often enough to peg India back.

Early on, India did not have the kind of speed that the Koreans showed in their game against Germany on Monday. That mean the counterattacks from the penalty corners lacked the bite needed to be effective against the superbly fit Australians. The short passing that the Indians tried was also of no avail as the Australian midfield and defence tackled remarkably well.

India was, of course, hamstrung by the fact that it could have only four players on the bench after spearhead Shivendra Singh’s suspension for two matches. Coach Jose Brasa’s worst fears came true and when he sought fresh pairs of legs to send in, he did not have many options. And his players also came up short when having to find ways past the seemingly impregnable defence.

This was not a night on which you could fault the Indians too much. For, you could see a great sense of purpose and method in Australia’s marauding approach to the match. They simply did not let the Indians play their game and kept scoring at frequent intervals to ensure that they would pick up full points from this contest.

Even the staunchest of Indian supporters – and there were celebrities and diehards, Olympic legends and school kids in the stands – will concede that it was Australia’s redemption night. It was a bit of a shame that India had to come off an emotionally and physically draining victory over Pakistan and run into a squad that was hurt by having lost to England.

This piece was written for www.stick2hockey.com