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Rajpal’s boys flatter to deceive

Defending champions Australia outplayed India 5-2 in a Commonwealth Games Pool A hockey match at a packed Major Dhyan Chand stadium here on Thursday. Shubhodeep Chakravarty reports

india Updated: Oct 08, 2010 01:44 IST
Shubhodeep Chakravarty
Shubhodeep Chakravarty
Hindustan Times

The Indian team has got to be getting that sinking feeling again. There’s a strange sense of déjà vu to this scoreline: India 2, Australia 5. After all, this was the same margin by which Australia hammered India by in February’s hockey World Cup — at this same venue.

In this case though, it was a preliminary round match on Thursday, where, despite displaying playing aggressively in the first half, the Indians went down to the world champions.

The Kookaburras opened the scoring as early as the second minute when Des Abbott spanked the ball in courtesy a Dhananjay Mahadik mis-hit. The defending champion brought up their second goal just four minutes later when another defensive error allowed Trent Mitton to register his name on the scoring list.

But just when the match looked like taking an embarrassing turn for the hosts, the Indian forward line took the field by storm.
Tushar Khandekar’s break in the 12th minute for instance, gave him a clear passage to pass the ball to a sprinting Dharamvir Singh in the flanks, who came inside to reverse flick the ball past the Aussie keeper. The rest of the first half was an unexpected script where the Indians kept up the attack, forcing the Australian coach to fall his men back. The fallback helped, as the hosts failed to capitalise on umpteen chances including five penalty corners.

The sudden rise in tempo was expected to be carried into the second half, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Showing a complete change in strategy, the Australians scored three minutes into the second half, when the visitors managed their first penalty corner. Unlike their opponents, they made merry from the shooting line.

A strike from the first game’s hat-trick hero, Luke Doerner, met a slight deflection from Eddie Ockenden and flew into the inside skirting of the goal.
This was enough to consolidate the lead and deflate India’s aggression. From hereon, it was back to trying to seal the obvious cracks in defence for Jose Brasa’s boys.

An occasional tryst into the Australian defence proved futile, as the likes of Shivendra Singh, Tushar Khandekar and Rajpal Singh were repeatedly crowded out.

The final nail in the coffin came when the Australians scored two goals in the span of four minutes to quell any chance of a comeback.

While Danish Mujtaba failed to cover mid-fielder Liam de Young, who scored the fourth, a rushing Glen Turner beat two defenders to score the fifth and final goal past Bharat Chetri. A goal by Sandeep Singh in the dying minutes of the game through a penalty corner was little consolation.

First Published: Oct 07, 2010 19:58 IST