Indian men’s hockey team targets upstaging Australia at Commonwealth Games 2018
India, with an inferior record against Australia in major hockey tournaments, are chasing their first win over the hosts in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.other sports Updated: Mar 23, 2018 09:45 IST
The Indian men’s hockey team chasing a return to the top of a game it once dominated have a big gap in their achievements – they have rarely defeated Australia in major events. India have not defeated Australia in the Olympics since 1972 and their only World Cup win dates back to 1978.
In the Commonwealth Games, Australia hold a 5-0 record over India.
As they set out for the Commonwealth Games 2018 starting on April 4, a win over the hosts would reflect a major surge in India’s bid to regain their place among the game’s elite.
India skipper Manpreet Singh though is confident the team can script a new chapter at the Gold Coast CWG. The hockey competition starts on April 5.
Men’s hockey was added to CWG in 1998, and Australia have dominated since then. India, fourth in Kuala Lumpur, did not play in the 2002 Manchester Games. They were fifth in 2006 at Melbourne, but won silver in the 2010 New Delhi edition, losing to Australia in the final. India finished second at Glasgow in 2014.
However, Manpreet feels Australia are not invincible. “In the recent past, we have played out a draw in international competitions. It has given us the belief we can do better. It will be good if we achieve that goal in Australia.”
India and Australia are in different pools in the 10-team competition and can meet only in the knockout stages.
Manpreet is also upbeat over the team’s build-up. There are a lot of changes in training drills, which have changed the focus of players. They are fitter and staying focused till the final seconds has helped avoid last-minute goals. “All these factors are helping us,” he said.
In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, India came close to upsetting Australia in the preliminary round, but settled for a 2-all draw, eventually finishing seventh. At Athens in 2004, India lost to Australia 3-4 in the group stages.
Manpreet says the focus has been on positive thinking. “All the players have been asked to stay focused and think on winning lines throughout the game,” he said.
Players have been told not to argue with umpires as it would be a waste of energy and distract from the main task of winning.
Penalty corner is the other focus area for the team management. Former Australian drag flicker Chris Ciriello has been roped in as analytical expert. He has signed up until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “We are learning lots of new things from him. It’s reflecting on the team performance,” he said.