India aims to upstage Australia in Champions Trophy hockey

In pursuit of their maiden Champions Trophy title in the 37th and final edition of the event, the Indians could not have asked for a better start.

India is now leading the six-team standings with six points from two wins, just ahead of Australia (4 points). (File Photo)   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Its campaign off to a dream start with back-to-back wins, India would look to continue the giant-slaying spree when it takes on world champion Australia in its third match of the FIH Champions Trophy hockey tournament, here, tomorrow.

In pursuit of their maiden Champions Trophy title in the 37th and final edition of the event, the Indians could not have asked for a better start, mauling arch-rival Pakistan 4-0, before stunning world No.2 and reigning Olympic champion Argentina 2-1 in their opening two games.

India is now leading the six-team standings with six points from two wins, just ahead of Australia (4 points). The top two teams in the round-robin league will face each other in the summit clash on Sunday.]

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Putting the Commonwealth Games debacle behind them, the Indians came out with new vigour and purpose, here, under new chief coach Harendra Singh, who swapped roles with Sjoerd Marijne as the women’s team coach.

Under Harendra, who took over for the fourth time in his career, the Indian team looked a completely transformed side, desperate to make amends for the Gold Coast disaster.

Preferring to field youth alongside experience, Harendra has managed to instil confidence among the players and it is evidently visible in India’s impressive performances in the opening two games, here.

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While the Indian strikers looked in imperious form, scoring brilliant field goals, the backline, the team’s perennial concern, has also produced a stellar show and was rock solid against Pakistan and Argentina.

Young Dilpreet Singh has been phenomenal upfront alongside Mandeep Singh, S.V. Sunil and Lalit Upadhyay, but Ramanadeep Singh will not take any further part in the tournament after fracturing his right knee in the opening match against Pakistan. He is set to return home.

The seriousness of Ramandeep’s injury was confirmed after an MRI scan, which means the striker could be out of action for a period of four to six months.

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The midfield, under the talismanic Sardar Singh, too, rose to the occasion and has been building good link-ups with the forwards, resulting in the field goals.

But, the Kookaburras would not be easy to edge past, given its record of rising to big challenges effortlessly. Australia drew 3-3 with Belgium, before beating Pakistan 2-1 to garner four points. And, when it comes to playing against India, it has always managed to be at their best.

In fact, it is Australia against whom India lost in a shootout in the final of the last Champions Trophy in London. And, that result would definitely be on the Indian players’ minds when they take the turf tomorrow.

After facing Australia, India would take on Belgium on Thursday, before drawing curtains to the round-robin campaign with a match against host Netherlands on Saturday.