Inconsistency has been the biggest problem for the Indian hockey team over the years amidst the rapid progress the team has made after the 2012 London Olympics disaster. The ‘inconsistent chapter’ was played out at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar on Sunday as the Sardar Singh-led side barely avoided embarrassment to escape with a 1-1 draw in the first hockey Test against Japan.
The hosts wasted an early penalty corner and were made to pay when Japan took the lead in the second quarter through Kurogawa Daichi and held on to the lead at half-time. India were desperate to bounce back, but Japan stuck it out keeping India’s frustration levels high. The Indian midfield was non-existent with the Japanese not allowing the home side to break free.
India needed Vokkaliga Raghunath to find the equalizing goal in the closing stages of the third quarter, much to the relief of the home side. Going into the final quarter, India had the opportunity to sneak in a match-winner and they even forced a penalty corner, but Rupinder Pal Singh messed it up as India were forced to settle for an unconvincing 1-1 draw.
The last time India played Japan in an international tie was at the 2013 Asian Champions Trophy in Kakamighara, where a second-string Indian side lost 1-2. However, at the 2012 Asian Champions Trophy in Doha, India had pipped Japan 3-1.
India will have to pull up their socks when they face Japan in the second Test on Tuesday.