The Indian men’s hockey team had their ‘moments’ against world number one Australia in the second Test at the MATE Stadium in Adelaide, and nobody knows it better than the players themselves. The manner in which the Blueshirts enjoyed early ascendancy and had their noses in front via a shortie goal by skipper Harmanpreet Singh would have given Graham Reid’s boys a lot to look forward to. What would have been pleasing to see is the way the Indian absorbed sustained Aussie pressure (including 4 consecutive penalty corners) and held the solitary goal lead for good twelve-thirteen minutes before prolific Blake Govers, who did late damage in the first Test, evened things up late in the opening quarter with a rasping tomahawk.
The Kookaburras taught India a great lesson of how to take the game away from the opposition after coming from behind with two goals in a space of eight minutes via Jake Harvie and Jack Welsh. The sagging spirits of the Indians were lifted by Hardeep Singh, who forced a defensive howler from Josh Beltz and slammed home to keep his side in the contest. Blake Govers showed his range of scoring goals, flicking a Jake Harvie pass to ensure the hosts enjoyed the half-time break with a cosy 4-2 lead.
India showed they were in no mood to throw in the towel as Mohammed Raheel scored a smartly and indirectly executed short corner in the early part of the third quarter and they were very much in the match going into the final quarter with the 3-4 scoreline. And that’s where all comeback aspirations of the visitors were nipped in the bud by the Australians. Blake Govers continue to cause most damage to the Indian defence, this time setting up Jacob Anderson for the team’s fifth goal and all looked lost for India when Jacob Whetton whipped home the sixth goal.
By now it was crystal clear what the outcome would be – Blake Govers celebrated his hat-trick converting a stroke. Harmanpreet Singh took the ‘stroke’ route in the dying seconds to pull one back but at the end of it, Graham Reid’s coached side would know they had their opportunities to put it across their opponents. It is this confidence that the Indians must take into the remaining three Tests and not get bogged down by the fact that it would be exceedingly tough to claw their way back from being 0-2 down to win the 5 Test series. The larger focus should be on building on the gains of the first two Tests and get better. After the drubbings in Tokyo and Birmingham, this is an much improved performance.
Every international side finds Australia a tough nut to crack and India are no exception – at least this Indian team is not exuding abject surrender and playing like a world number 5 side. The Olympic bronze win has ramped up expectations among Indian hockey fans but we must not lose sight of the fact that India have a lot of ground to cover before they can be a world number one, two or three side.