FIH Hockey World League Final 2017: Can India tame the English challenge?
Buoyant after a brilliant show against the Kookaburras in their inaugural game of the FIH Hockey World League Final 2017 held at Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar, the Indian tigers are now looking forward to meeting the English challenge, as they play their next match on Saturday against the English hockey team in their Pool B segment.
On paper, the Asian champions have overcome the English jinx they had been suffering for years. The last time they met in a major tournament was at the FIH Hockey Champions Trophy the previous year, where the Indians defeated the Englishmen by 2-1 in the league round. Even the last match the two teams they played in the FIH World Hockey League Finals, i.e. in 2015, went in the Indians' favour, as they defeated them 2-1 in the quarterfinals to enter the semifinal round, and consequently, win a historic bronze medal as well.
Besides, the track record of the Indian team has been pretty good this year as well, with an Asia Cup, a bronze at Sultan Azlan Shah tournament in their kitty. Now holding the Australian team to a draw will surely make the Indian team raring to go against the English side. However, there are a few things that the Indian hockey team would love to keep in mind as they aim for a win against England.
Conversions from penalty corners is a MUST
The jinx of penalty corners came to haunt the Indians once again as they failed to convert any of the four penalty corners awarded to them.
It has haunted the Indian team time and again, denying them of several important titles of the past. So, to make themselves count here, the Indians need to get over this jinx very soon.
Variance in the shots
Now this is a pretty strange suggestion, but a variance in the shots directed at the opposition's goal could work wonders for the Indian team, especially as visible in the case of Akashdeep Singh, who missed many a goal against the Australian side, simply because he refused to deviate from his trademark reverse hit shot, even in cases, where a simple pass would've been enough.
Even Gurjant Singh and Harmanpreet Singh, who had worked wonders for India at the Junior Hockey World Cup, failed to push the ball into the goalpost, with their shots missing the target by inches, on almost the same grounds.
Plugging the chinks in the defence
Even though India managed to hold the Australians to a draw, the chinks in the defence, often notorious as India's Achilles heel in hockey, were still visible. What else could be the reason that India, who had broken open the Australian armour in the 20th minute, couldn't even sustain the lead for five minutes?
Had it not been for the two goalkeepers, Akash Chikte and Suraj Karkera, the Australians could've won with a handsome margin, something that most of Indians even dread today. The defence, therefore, is one sector where India needs to buck up a lot, for this is what cost almost an assured medal to India at the Rio Olympics.
To sum it up, India need to keep its wits intact and stay alert, when they'll come out to play against England, and hope to strike big before their ultimate league encounter against Germany. With the level of play they've displayed against the Aussies, it doesn't appear a difficult task for Sjeord Mardjine's boys as well.