Having successfully gone up against two of the top three ranked sides in their opening FIH Pro League in 2020, the fourth-ranked Indian hockey team will now take on no. 2 Australia on Friday.
In their season-opening face-off against the Netherlands, the Indian hockey team won both matches and then took on the reigning world and European champions Belgium, against whom they won one while coming agonisingly close in the second.
Next up, India faces reigning FIH Pro League champions Australia. Indian hockey men's team chief coach Graham Reid pointed out to their recent success citing that as a confidence-booster ahead of the fixture.
Positivity from performance
“I think we have played some very consistent level of hockey in our first four matches against the Netherlands and Belgium,” said Graham Reid at the pre-match press conference on Thursday. “We faced two of the top three teams in the world and showed that we can compete at the highest level constantly.
“We are feeling really confident ahead of the matches against the No. 2 team in the world, and of course, they are also the defending champions of the FIH Hockey Pro League."
"I think the mood in the camp is very good. All our players are very confident after the performances they have put in against Netherlands and Belgium, and are actually looking forward to the matches," he added.
Caution against comfortability
However, Graham Reid was wary of the complacency that could set in after a run of success in the FIH Pro League so far, particularly in the run-up to the 2020 Olympics.
“I think the challenge for everyone is that we have to keep going, again and again, every other weekend,” he pointed out. “So, it is the mental aspect that we need to focus on, and make sure that we are ready to front up to different challenges because that will help us in preparing better for the Olympics as well.”
One of the aspects that seemed to have worked in the Indian hockey team’s favour is a change in tactic. India has resorted to zonal marking from their traditional man-to-man and have been deploying a high press, a change that has often helped them stop the opponents in their tracks in their own half, mostly closer to the striking circle.
While the team has been threatening the opponent’s goal and has been earning penalty corners at will with this change, it’s the tempo that has worried Graham Reid a bit so far.
“Apart from that, in the build-up to these matches, we've been working on our corners, and our key focus has been on making sure that we play with the same tempo throughout the two matches,” he said.
India hoping to avoid past losses to Australia
India and Australia have faced off on 30 occasions since 2013 with the Kookaburras winning 22 of those competitions, while the Indian hockey team has won only six while two matches ended in draws.
Regardless of that, the Indian hockey team’s surge in performance has not been lost on the Australian chief coach Colin Batch, who took notes of the upturn in India’s form.
"I think they have performed very well so far against two good teams. They missed the tournament last year, but they have managed to perform consistently in the four matches, and they have got some belief now in what they're doing," he observed.
"Their confidence is growing and growing, but having said that, we are very confident in our own preparations and are looking forward to two good games."
Where to watch India vs Australia FIH Pro League match
Saturday's match of the FIH Pro League will be telecast on Star Sports 1 and Star Sports HD1 at 7 PM IST, while Sunday's coverage can be obtained on Star Sports 3 and Star Sports HD1 at 7 PM IST.