It was as if the deep defence of the Indian men’s hockey team had forgotten to set their alarm clock and went into deep slumber save for their shot-stopper PR Sreejesh. It was if the Blueshirts were more than satisfied with their assured silver medal (by virtue of reaching the final). One is not trying to take anything away from the team’s podium finish at the 2022 Commonwealth Games but the manner in which the Indians capitulated in the final against Australia would rankle Indian hockey for some time to come – mind you this is not the first time that the Indians were subjected to such humiliating defeat by Australia – at the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games in front of a packed stadium and in the presence of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Kookaburras had inflicted an 8-0 thrashing. Just a year back, India was walloped 1-7 by the Aussies at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Australia’s 7-0 win over India robbed of the competitiveness one would expect in the final of a showpiece event – one-way traffic is not something spectators come to watch. Blake Govers put Australia in the lead off a shortie conversion – his seventh goal of the tournament and there was no respite for India since that goal. Nathan Ephraums doubled the lead of an unselfish Flynn Ogilvie pass. Jacob Anderson struck twice in a span of five minutes while Tom Wickham fired one as the Kookaburras was on the doorstep of 7th Commonwealth Games gold with an invincible 5-0 lead.
Indian struggled to put up a fight – the lack of cohesion between the midfield and forwardline was amply evident. Sreejesh put up a brave show despite little support from his fullbacks – no wonder, his frustration at his team-mates was visible on the pitch. There was absolutely no sense of urgency in the second half and what strategy talk during the half-time break at least did not show up on the pitch. India kept hovering around the Aussie ‘D’ without looking menacing and failed to earn a single PC which probably speaks volumes of their overall performance.
India was expected to be second-best to Australia but the lack of purpose and intent was deeply disappointing. England team made Australia sweat by taking a 2-0 lead in the semifinal before going down 2-3 but there was no such fight from India. Nathan Ephraums capped off a brace while Flynn Ogilvie got his name on the scoresheet as the Aussies piled on the agony.
The Indian men’s team have played some exciting brand of hockey to reach the final and they would be gutted because they are more capable of performing than the final 7-0 scoreline. One hopes that the Blueshirts would learn their lessons from two consecutive tennis scoreline defeats and come out stronger. Let’s hail the silver medal effort notwithstanding the annihilation at the hands of Australia.