The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Indian forwards lacked planning

Nothing seems to be going right for the Indian hockey team and the huge defeat to Australia will no doubt dent their confidence further. For a team that was considered one of the favourites to win the coveted title, the defeat has been a rude shock and has snuffed out their hopes of breaking the Champions Trophy jinx.

What surprised me most was the manner in which the Indians went down to the Aussies, particularly after having beaten them only a few months back. It was a pathetic display. They seemed a totally demoralised lot.

The team had generated much hype before leaving for Amstelveen and everybody must be wondering what went wrong. True, the Australians outclassed us in tackling, interception and quick release of the first pass. Except for goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan, who pulled off some brilliant saves, the entire team failed to click when it mattered most.

The Indian forwards — Dhanraj Pillay, Baljit Singh Dhillon, Gagan Ajit Singh, Prabhjot Singh and Deepak Thakur — failed to play with any concrete plan and at no point of the game did we trouble the Australian defenders. This enhanced the confidence of the Aussie defenders and I thought coach Rajinder Singh could have tried a different combination in the frontline to galvanise the team.

It is an open secret that the Australians play an ‘open game’ against all their opponents. But they play with speed and they counter attack very effectively. In this system of play, I fail to understand why our forward line did not combine with their wing halves by using the width of the ground. This could have troubled the Aussie defenders.

The inconsistent display from the forwards may worry the team management in their next two games against Argentina and Pakistan. With our forwards failing to break through, the midfielders should have taken the added responsibility.

Playing against Australia, the midfielders can perform well since there will be a lot of space in between the 50 yards line. But the midfielders could not produce any outstanding hockey, except for Baljit Singh Saini.

If the forwards and midfielders fail to play their usual game, the Indians will have a tough time in the remaining matches. When the Australians scored the second goal in the 44th minute, nearly 26 minutes were still left for the Indians to fight back, but from their performance it looked they had already given up. There was no sense of anguish to fight the rest of the game. Even when Dilip Tirkey made the scoreline 1-3, there were 20 minutes left for the team to bounce back, but they just could not do it.

If they could do it against Germany by scoring two goals in two minutes, why could they not show a more determined effort' The Indians have to find a solution to all their problems. They have to get the focus back and show what they are capable of in the remaining matches.

Going by the performance of the Australians in earlier matches, I thought they would be under pressure against India. Their deep defenders and midfielders had played below par and conceded nine goals in the first two ties. I thought the Indians would be able to exploit their lack of form.

But it turned out to be a different story in the end. The Aussies played some aggressive hockey from the frontline supported by the midfielders. The frontline moved with a lot of purpose and pierced into the Indian defence freely and looked very confident. (PTI)

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