In their last encounter at the group stage, India handed a 69-18 defeat to the English team.
Cometh the business end of the tournament, cometh a flawless performance from the Indian team. The squad which was hailed as “Dream Team” put on a spectacular display of attack combined with fortly defense to defeat the Someshwar Kali led England side and progress ahead to the semi-finals.
The match saw the right and left raider combination working to perfect effect with Ajay Thakur, now the third most successful raider at the World Cup scoring 11 points to register a Super 10, his third one in a row. He was ably supported by the young gun, Pardeep Narwal who amassed a massive 13 points rattling the English defense with his agility, tricks and dupki’s alike.
When it comes to the defense, the first half was spearheaded by Surjeet’s efforts who claimed 6 points with the English raiders falling in his tackle trap more often than not while Sandeep Narwal played the role of a raiding all-rounder to perfection and reducing the English team to a status of rookies with his rampant raids which brought forth points in heaps while standing like a wall in the defense.
The second half, however, had an aspect that was unseen in the Indian team’s three last victories. It saw the skipper, Anup Kumar being substituted which is unusual for he is ideally the brain of the team and treasure house of strategies, whispering tactics to his players every now and then, leading the charge for the team.
Along with him, his deputy Manjeet Chhillar also decided to spend some time off the court and overlook the proceedings which gave them a chance to witness the brilliance of the Mohit Chhilar-Surender Nada partnership as the two corner defenders. If the England defense was not shattered enough with Ajay and Pardeep’s exploits, Dharmaraj Cheralthan and Sandeep Narwal also traced their path back to the bench to make way for Rahul Chaudhari and Nitin Tomar, both of whom rendered the rival defense clueless, amassing a total of 12 points between them.
On this, the captain commented, “The substitutions were a part of the strategy. The first half was quite amazing for we had a huge lead of 39 points in our kitty. That is why, Manjeet and myself both decided to stay off the ground, so that other young members can do their experimentation, also getting some actual game time in the process.”
This final group stage clash was where Team India displayed an all-round performance devoid of any mistakes that plagued the side. There were no signs of a patchy raiding, disorganized team structure, poor defense or a lack of unity; all these mistakes had been erased as was evident in their bright run to notch up their fourth consecutive victory.
Looking forward, the Indian team can face a strong Iranian team in the semi-finals or a relatively weaker side in the likes of Thailand, Kenya or Japan depending on the Pool B standings post the final fixtures on Wednesday.
However, the uncertainty of their opponent in the next stage and the pressure of the finals does not affect the Indian side who is riding on high confidence which was echoed in the statements from the skipper when he said, "As of now it’s the semi-final which is more important to us, prior to the finals. We understand very well how Iran's strategy is working out, given that we will face them sooner or later. Iran is a very good team, and we will deploy our best effort to win the game."
Technical coach E. Bhaskaran added, “We can't underestimate the capability of the opposite team, however, I can say that our team has unity and great teamwork, thus we are all set to give our best performance in the semifinals.”
The win against England have tipped the Indian team as the biggest challengers to claim the prestigious title of the World Cup. With each progressing match at the group stage, they have all but rectified and erased out all of their flaws to achieve near perfection, thus sending a message that they are now “the team to beat!”