| Indian midfielder Bimal Lakra (left) challenges Adam Commens of Australia A during the three-nation meet match in Perth Wednesday. India won 2-0. (AFP)
Perth: India started their campaign in the three-nation hockey tournament on a positive note, defeating Australia A 2-0 here Wednesday.
In the inaugural match of the tournament played earlier in the day, Australia blanked Pakistan 3-0.
India’s match progressed on expected lines, with the second-string Australian team hardly posing any real threat to the visitors.
The Indians dominated the proceedings right from the word go and former skipper Dilip Tirkey scored the first goal in the 25th minute converting a penalty corner.
Leading 1-0 at half-time, India started to create more chances and the efforts paid dividends when Gagan Ajit Singh capped a strong run-up with a goal in the 60th minute.
The hosts tried hard to pull one back but the Indian defence led by Tirkey proved a wee bit too strong.
Australia A goalkeeper Stephen Lambert had a fine game and it was because of his brilliance that the Indians could not sound the board too often.
India coach Rajinder Singh was satisified with the performance of his boys but cautioned the team to keep its focus on the tougher battles ahead, hinting at India’s much-anticipated encounter against Pakistan on Saturday.
“I think the boys played well considering it was their first match of the international season. The opposition put up a good show but our team was prepared,” Rajinder Singh said.
“We are now concentrating on the match against Australia Thursday and against Pakistan on Saturday. Both are going to be very tough,” he said.
Rajinder tried to play down the hype that has already built around the match against arch-rivals Pakistan, saying the team “will treat it as any other game”.
Earlier, Australia got off to a flier beating Pakistan 3-0 in the tournament opener. Australia, playing their first international in almost three months, showed their class in patches but it was enough to beat an under-strength Pakistan side, without key players Sohail Abbas and former captain Mohammed Nadeem who were not selected for the tour on disciplinary grounds.
Brent Livermore (14), Troy Elder (29) and Nathan Eglington (61) scored the goals for Australia in the match witnessed by some 500-odd crowd.
Australia took the lead after 14 minutes when the combination of Elder and Jamie Dwyer helped set up a penalty, which Livermore converted.
The second goal came six minutes before half-time when Elder, who impressed the most, smashed home from a penalty corner before Eglington scored the third in the 61st minute with a diving effort from a goalmouth scramble following a penalty corner.
The Indian team suffered an off-field blow Wednesday when Castrol withdrew its sponsorship as a cost-cutting measure, says a report from New Delhi.
The Indian Hockey Federation is now in talks with various corporates and is hopeful of roping in a sponsor soon.
“We are negotiating with various people. Something will come out soon but we cannot reveal anything at the moment,” IHF president K. P. S. Gill said.
Gill denied that the development will have any negative bearing on the Indian team’s preparation for the Athens Olympics next year.
“Our preparations will not be affected. We already have some funds lined up,” Gill said. The IHF chief also insisted that the parting with the sponsor had been amicable.