FIH Pro League: India hopes to continue fine run against holder Australia

An in-form Indian men's hockey team will look to improve its poor head-to-head record against FIH Pro League holder Australia with wins on Friday and Saturday.

Indian men's hockey team is currently third in the FIH Pro League with eight points from four matches.   -  biswaranjan rout

Host India would look to continue its fine form when it takes on title holder Australia in its next FIH Pro League tie here on Friday and Saturday.

India has made an excellent start to its maiden FIH Hockey Pro League season and is currently sitting third in the table with eight points from four games.

The Manpreet Singh-led side claimed five points from a possible six against the Netherlands before claiming another three in a stunning 2-1 victory over Belgium, the reigning World and European champions. The Red Lions bounced back with a 3-2 win in the second match.

Few would dispute that India, is playing their best hockey in recent years under Australian coach Graham Reid.

It would also be India’s penultimate home tie at the Kalinga Stadium here before it embarks on a series of away games. But past records and statistics don’t look promising for the host as Australia has an outstanding recent record against India.

The Kookaburras have won 22 of their last 30 meetings against world no.4 India and have not faced a defeat since a 2016 Test match in Bendigo, Australia, when V.R. Raghunath scored twice in a 3-2 win.

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Australia, managed by Colin Batch, who was recently named 2019 Men’s Coach of the Year, also has an imperious record at the Kalinga Stadium, a venue where it has not suffered a defeat in regular time since a semifinal loss at the hands of Germany in the 2014 Champions Trophy.

The Australians were unbeaten in all six matches on the way to claiming the title at the 2017 Hockey World League Final, and won five of their six matches at the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2018, with only the Netherlands getting the better of them in a semifinal shoot-out.

Indian hockey team coach Graham Reid on Thursday said he will look to mould his players into a battle-hardened and mentally strong outfit before the Tokyo Olympics.

“It is the mental aspect that we need to focus on, and make sure that we are ready to front up to different challenges, because that will help us in preparing better for the Olympics as well. The challenge is to keep going every weekend,” Reid said.

“I think we have played some very consistent level of hockey in our first four matches against The Netherlands and Belgium. We faced two of the top-3 teams in the world, and showed that we can compete at the highest level constantly.

“We are feeling really confident ahead of the matches against the No. 2 team in the world, and of course they are also the defending champions of the FIH Hockey Pro League.”

The defending champion began the 2020 Pro League as the world no 1 but the ranking to Belgium after picking up just one point from a possible six against the Red Lions. The Aran Zalewski-led team is currently fifth in the points table with six points from four games.

The Indian team will leave for away games in Germany (April 25 and 26) and Great Britain (May 2 and 3). The Men in Blue will return to play on home soil on May 23 and 24 against New Zealand before travelling to Argentina to play on June 5 and 6.

FIH Pro League, India vs Australia - When and where to watch?

First match - Friday, 7 PM on Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD and Hotstar

Second match - Saturday, 7 PM on Star Sports 3, Star Sports 1 HD and Hotstar

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