India forward Prabhjot Singh wanted to stamp his class with a goal, which if scored, would have gone down in the history of World Cup as the greatest solo effort. He dribbled past Australia’s Kieran Govers, showing the midfielder a clean pair of heels.
Unfortunately, the India striker forgot that hockey is a team game and that individual brilliance counts for nothing.
If India played as a unit against Pakistan on the opening day, the team failed to click on Tuesday, suffering an embarrassing 2-5 defeat against Australia, smarting from their loss to England.
The result comes as a big setback for the hosts as they now have to get past Spain, England and South Africa to clinch a semifinal berth.
Before the start of the match, Australian Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, announced a bilateral series — Ajit Pal-Charlesworth Cup --- to promote friendship between the two countries, which has been hit by a spate of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and other parts of Australia.
Though their foreign minister made friendly overtures, the Kookaburras were in no mood for niceties as they came out firing on all cylinders. It was a crucial tie for them after they missed opportunities galore to go down to England on the inaugural day.
The Australians set a terrific pace, which the Indians found too hot to handle. Even before the home team could settle down, Australia were up 3-0 with Liam De Young (2nd minute), Glenn Turner (10th) and Desmond Abbott (26th) leaving the rivals — and the partisan crowd — shell-shocked.
De Young volleyed into the goal on second attempt, Turner dived to deflect in a drag flick from Luke Doerner and Abbott capitalised on a superb counter-attack by De Young and Robert Hammond.
The Indians regrouped and created some chances but the attack lacked teeth. With Shivendra Singh suspended for two matches, coach Jose Brasa had to rely on Gurvinder Chandi and Deepak Thakur to fill the gap. They failed.
Just before halftime, Vikram Pillay scored off a melee inside the circle to raise hopes of a comeback.
But, all such hopes were dashed when Australia scored twice within six minutes of resumption. Arjun Halappa picked the ball on the right off a penalty-corner rebound and relayed it to skipper Rajpal Singh, who pushed it into the goal for India’s second goal.
The Indians subsequently launched some good attacks but they were guilty of holding on to the ball for far too long.
Adrian D’Souza saved a penalty stroke off Jamie Dwyer, but his heroics came too late in the day to make a difference.
For the record, this was India’s fifth defeat in a row against Australia in World Cup.