Confident India aim to upstage Australia in Champions Trophy hockey

Confident India aim to upstage Australia in Champions Trophy hockeyBREDA, Netherlands: Their campaign off to a dream start with back-to-back wins, India would look to continue the giant-slaying spree when they take on world champions Australia in their third match of the FIH Champions Trophy hockey tournament, here tomorrow.

In pursuit of their maiden Champions Trophy title in the 37th and final edition of the event, the Indians could not have asked for a better start, mauling arch-rivals Pakistan 4-0 before stunning world No.2 and reigning Olympic champions Argentina 2-1 in their opening two games.

India is now leading the six-team standings with six points from two wins, just ahead of Australia (4 points). The top two teams in the round robin league will face each other in the summit clash on Sunday.

The Commonwealth Games debacle behind them, the Indians came out with new vigor and purpose here under new chief coach Harendra Singh, who swapped roles with Sjoerd Marijne as the women’s team coach.

Under Harendra, who took over for the fourth time in his career, the Indian team looked a completely transformed side, desperate to make amends for the Gold Coast disaster.

Preferring to field youth alongside experience, Harendra has managed to instill confidence among the players and it is evidently visible in India’s impressive performances in the opening two games here.

While the Indian strikers looked in imperious form, scoring brilliant field goals, the backline, the team’s perennial concern, has also produced a stellar show and was rock solid against Pakistan and Argentina.

Young Dilpreet Singh has been phenomenal upfront alongside Mandeep Singh, SV Sunil and Lalit Upadhayay but Ramanadeep Singh will not take any further part in the tournament after fracturing his right knee in the opening match against Pakistan. He is set to return home.

The seriousness of Ramandeep’s injury was confirmed after an MRI scan, which means the striker could be out of action for a period of four to six months.

The midfield, under the talismanic Sardar Singh, too rose to the occasion and has been building good link-ups with the forwards, resulting in the field goals.

But the Kookaburras would not be easy to edge past given their record of rising to big challenges effortlessly.

Australia drew 3-3 with Belgium before beating Pakistan 2-1 to garner four points.

And when it comes to playing against India, they have always managed to be at their best.

In fact, it is Australia against whom India lost in a shoot-out in the final of the last Champions Trophy in London. And that result would definitely be on the Indian players’ minds when they take the turf tomorrow.

After facing Australia, India would take on Belgium on Thursday before drawing curtains to the round robin campaign with a match against hosts Netherlands on Saturday. PTI

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