Confident India take on wobbly Australia

Confident India take on wobbly Australia

Hosts high on confidence after big win over Pak

Confident India take on wobbly Australia

India will have to play at their best against Australia in their second match of the World Cup on Tuesday. AP/PTI

The win over Pakistan on Sunday was emphatic to say the least, as the home team blew away cobwebs of negativity that surrounded the build-up to the championships.

With three points in their bag, India have pre-tournament favourites Australia in their sights now, with the men from Down Under smarting from their 2-3 defeat to England in their first match.

On all counts, it was a difficult opening fixture for India. A defeat against Pakistan would have been a big blow to the Indian morale. The home team, indeed, had plenty to lose on Sunday at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium. But by turning in a positive display, India made a firm statement of intent.

Aggression was the key for India but it wasn’t all about attacks. Coach Jose Brasa had reiterated the need for India to move up in numbers and defend the same way, instead of sticking to their positions all the time. The first signs that the Indians were beginning to get a hang of it were evident in the opening game, even though they did waver a bit in the second session. The defence had been a cause of concern going into the tournament but Dhananjay Mahadik and Bharat Chikkara did a superb job at the back while in the midfield, Vikram Pillay, Arjun Halappa, Gurbaj Singh and Sardara Singh prevented Pakistan from stringing together any incisive moves while backing forwards Shivender Singh, Rajpal and Prabhjot well.

Pakistan were simply overwhelmed by the Indian assault as a result and at the end of the match, they had the grace to acknowledge the Indian superiority. Australia, coached by Ric Charlesworth, will be a different proposition though. They might have made a woeful start, unable to finish off moves and faltering repeatedly in penalty corners. The defeat, however, makes them doubly dangerous.

“It will be a difficult match,” agreed Brasa. “It will be a totally different game than the one against Pakistan. They are a very good team and after the defeat in the first match, they will certainly come hard at us. We will have to prepare well for them.” Led by World Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer, the Aussies rely on flair, pace and power to dominate their rivals. India have often come up short against the Aussies, and in World Cup, they have won just one match in six attempts, losing four and drawing the other. India’s last win over Australia came at the 1978 Buenos Aires World Cup.

A chance to improve that record comes on Tuesday but if Shivender Singh misses out because of his suspension, it will have an impact on the Indian frontline. Also, India will have to be sharp with their clearances to prevent Australia from mounting pressure. In the second half of the game against Pakistan, often their clearances travelled straight to their rivals, allowing them to mount repeated raids.

Pakistan failed to utilise the possession they got but Australia are unlikely to be that magnanimous, especially after their defeat on Sunday. India, certainly, need to be on their toes, and as Brasa said, keep their feet firmly on the ground.