Following a commendable 3-3 draw against Germany, India were leading 2-0 against Australia in Wednesday’s quarterfinal. A delectable clash was on its way when suddenly the Indian players hit the wall. Within a span of 24 minutes, running out of steam as the Kookaburras took control and started hammering the hosts at will.
A 7-2 result in favour of the dominating Aussies was an anti-climax for the sizeable crowd of 5,000-plus gathered at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium. But, like any other day in recent memory, it was unfair to expect India’s emerging squad to beat a full-fledged Australian team so early. However, the hosts can take heart that even with the presence of as many as six junior players in the squad, India were able to make their presence amongst the top seven teams of the world.
Despite injuries to seniors like Gurwinder Singh Chandi, Danish Mujtaba and the unavailability of junior star Ramandeep Singh due to shoulder injury, juniors like Nikkin Thimmaiah, Mandeep Singh and Affan Yousuf announced their arrival at the highest level and gelled well with seasoned campaigners SV Sunil and Yuvraj Walmiki.
India still have a chance to make amends and repair their fortunes as they will be up against Germany once again on Friday for a five-to-eight place finish. Even India’s chief coach Terry Walsh showered praise on how the team started the game against Australia.
“It was a very positive start. Australia were completely disintegrated in the first 20 minutes but we ran into a wall,” observed Walsh after the game. “We all know that Australia are much more stronger and powerful, physically much more superior than us. We probably need another 9-10 months to reach that level.”
Australian coach and India’s strident critic Ric Charlesworth also had words of appreciation. “I think our team is the best in the world and it would be hard for India to play against us. And, when we took control of the game, India struggled,” he said. “India has a young and inexperienced side compared to other teams and they will take time to reach this level. You have to give credit to them that they took full advantage when we’re a bit loose early on.”