Aussiephobia!

INDIAN CAPTAIN SARDAR SINGH AND THE TEAM'S TOP SCORER RUPINDER PAL SINGH pose for photographers on their arrival at the IGI Airport in New Delhi after participating in CWG 2014 in Glasgow. India finished runner-up.-PTI

Confronted by the Aussies, the Indians failed yet again in the men’s hockey event. S.Thyagarajan takes stock.

The script remains unaltered. The silver medal is retained by India. Is it progress from 2010? Not by any stretch of the imagination. But CWG Glasgow 2014 was different from Delhi 2010. True, the finalists were the same, but the margin was restricted to half from the 8-0 drubbing at the Indian capital.

The Aussie ghost continues to be unfathomable. Every time it surfaces, India suffers, and with devastating effect. In Glasgow, the Indians were confronted by the Aussies twice; the first meeting evoked moderate admiration for the fight shown; but the title contest was insipid and uninspiring. The outcome was visible from the push-off. Only the margin required to be known.

India’s head-to-head against the Aussies is appalling. It has lost 70 of the 102 matches played with 16 drawn. In the CWG India draws a blank in five encounters.

Statistics, it is true, do not convey some elements like the nature and intensity of contests. But that India has been repeatedly outplayed tells its own tale.

The Aussies were outstanding in Glasgow. This is acknowledged without even a hint of hesitation. They scored 30 goals and won all the six games. Even minus the top stars, who bid adieu after the World Cup, the Australians showed they were strong as ever. With nine individual goals, Christopher Ciriello proved to be a menace.

India’s showing, however, generates a filament of optimism for the coming Asian Games. This is also largely due to the manner in which the Indians outplayed Malaysia and Korea in the last World Cup. Again, this can be wishful thinking. Victories from June to August need not stand the same scrutiny in a different venue or clime.

A clinical and critical dissection reveals once again the shortcomings of the frontline. The victory margins against Scotland and South Africa were flattering. But the high point, admittedly, was the recovery after trailing 0-2 to post a victory against New Zealand, usually a tormentor for India in many competitions. It was a noteworthy performance.

That the frontline was innocuous can be read from the fact that out of the 19 goals scored, six came from the defender, Rupinderpal Singh, through penalty corners and strokes. The return of Chandi and Danish obviously did not enhance in any way the strength and system of the frontline work.

The bulk of the work, however, came from the tried and tested Sardar Singh. He is overworked and looks burnt out. It was telling in the way he got himself involved in specks of rough play leading to his ban from the crucial semi-final against the Kiwis.

Neither England nor New Zealand lived up to their stature. However, high praise was reserved for England’s Andrew Jackson for netting nine goals.

Astonishing was the poor performance by Malaysia. The team is wallowing in a bad patch. It had finished last in the World Cup after all the euphoria of making the grade ahead of India.

The 8-1 thrashing by England in CWG 2014 paled into insignificance when Malaysia suffered a humiliating reverse against Trinidad and Tobago 2-4. A lot needs to be looked into before Malaysia sews up another combination for a podium finish at the Asian Games, like the 2010 edition in Guangzhou.

Expectedly, the hockey championship was a memorable “double” for the Aussies. The women pushed out England in a tie-breaker 3-1 after a 1-1 draw. Jody Kenny played a dominant part in the Aussies’ successes scoring 10 goals — the highest individual score in the event.

The fifth place for India in this section was in keeping with the form and the hopes generated at the time of departure. Jasjit Kaur’s six goals merit special mention. A podium finish would have justified the talk of progress under the foreign coach.

Taken as the prelude to the Asian Games, CWG-14 was a laboratory for the coaches to work on redesigning the approach and the proficiency required to reach the podium.