Azlan Shah Cup: Australian challenge awaits winless India

After a loss and a draw, India is currently placed fourth in the six-team tournament.

Sardar Singh (third from left, top row) captains a young and inexperienced team at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.   -  K. Murali Kumar

India faces a daunting challenge in world champion Australia when the two teams clash at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Tuesday. India is yet to register a win in the tourney, whereas Australia has won both the matches it has played so far.

After a loss and a draw, India is currently placed fourth in the six-team tournament, with just one point. Australia, on the other hand, leads the points table with two wins from as many games.

India cannot afford another loss if it wishes to stay afloat in the tournament. The Indians looked lacklustre in the opening two games (against Argentina and England), wasting numerous chances, including as many as nine penalty corners against England in its second game. This profligacy has to be stemmed to put up a fight against Australia.

Read: Misfiring India draws 1-1 against England

Sardar Singh, the captain, has to lift his game significantly and inspire the youngsters in the absence of his regular team-mates. For Sardar, this is a crucial tournament. He has to deliver to be in consideration for important tournaments lined up later this year, as an ordinary outing can draw curtains on his international career, especially with the team management preferring youngsters.

This would be a final chance for the Indian players, including Sardar, to stake their claim for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

A favourable result against Australia will brighten India’s chances of a creditable finish; it plays host Malaysia on Wednesday and Ireland on Saturday in its last two round-robin fixtures.

In other matches of the day, England will play neighbour Ireland while Argentina squares off against the home team.