Indian hockey

India vs England HWL talking points: A harsh reality check for Sjoerd Marijne and his team

After an inspired display against Australia, India now have to go back to the drawing board to show that they deserve to be a part of the big league.

The 2-3 scoreline may have flattered India, who were sloppy in all areas of the pitch on Saturday as they crashed to a defeat against England. Manpreet Singh and Co were slow in their build-up play, sloppy in defence and were unable to cope with David Goodfield, Barry Middleton, David Condon and Samuel Ward from running the show.

The defeat, which was also coach Sjoerd Marijne’s first after taking over as India coach, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Maintaining match intensity for two consecutive days is no mean feat for any sportsperson and the team may well bounce back in style against the physical Germans, who were also below-par against Australia. Here are some of the talking points from the contest in Bhubaneswar:

England stifle India’s attack

Image credit: Star Sports
Image credit: Star Sports

India had one shot in the first half, a stark contrast to the manner in which they raided the Australian defence, mustering up as many as six at the same stage on Friday. A lot was down to England’s plans here. When they lost the ball, they retreated quickly and overloaded the centre of the park, making it difficult for Manpreet Singh and Chinglensana Singh to carry the ball in midfield and ping passes to Akashdeep and Co.

The only time England looked were troubled was a chance that fell to Chinglensana from an Akashdeep pass, but the India vice-captain skewed his shot wide of Harry Gibson’s goal. For much of the contest, England forced India to switch play to the flanks as they outmuscled their opponents in the middle of the park. India’s attackers failed to stamp their authority and cut a frustrated figure. As mentioned earlier, fatigue may have played a part.

Defence goes to sleep

Image credit: Hockey India
Image credit: Hockey India

England’s first two goals were a result of the Indian defence being far too casual. The opener, which came from Goodfield, saw the the hosts let the English pass the ball in front of goal with minimum pressure on them. While the Indian backline dithered, Goodfield was alert to bundle the ball into the net.

Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh, for the first three quarters, were unable to dictate play from the deep, which resulted in plenty of misplaced passes. SV Sunil, Akashdeep Singh and Gurjant Singh were starved of quality service, which in turn saw Bobby Crutchley’s side enjoy a lion’s share of the possession.

Harmanpreet was culpable for ball-watching for the second goal, which allowed Ward to get behind the defence, take the ball out of Suraj Karkera’s reach before slotting the ball into the open net. Marijne’s rued his side’s lack of urgency while building attacks after the game, “The speed of the game in the beginning was not good enough. We held the ball too long, we lost the ball too much. The press was not like yesterday. I have already told them before the tournament that we really need to work on our consistency. For me, the big question is why we dropped from our yesterday’s level.”

Rupinder’s mixed bag of fortunes

When the chips were down, it was Rupinder who inspired a comeback. The cross-field pass to find Akashdeep Singh on the right flank in the final-15 was a sight to behold. For a brief passage of play, the Indians threated to run away with the contest. It was the 27-year-old’s shot from a penalty corner that allowed Akashdeep to pull one back. Rupinder then showed his class with an outstanding drag-flick from another PC to level scores.

Just a couple of minutes later, though, all his hard work was undone by allowing the English midfield to open the Indian defence, and came from Rupinder’s failure to clear out a loose ball. Condon found Ward, whose’s ferocious strike from just inside the circle gave England the match. Rupinder, blowing hot and cold in the space of minutes, perhaps summed up India’s evening.

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