After a disappointing three matches in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, the Indian men's hockey team will have to raise the bar when it faces reigning world champions Australia in the final league game at the Azlan Shah Stadium here on Saturday.India, who are already out of the title race, had earlier drawn 2-2 against South Korea, lost 1-2 to New Zealand, gone down 2-3 to lower ranked Malaysia and edged past minnows Canada 5-3. They have four points from four matches in the 24th edition of the six-nation tournament.Having put up a shoddy performance, India are gearing up for Saturday's battle that will help them settle at a steady position.The two teams last had an interesting face off during the Champions Trophy 2014, where the Australians managed to get an edge over the Indians 2-1.Prior to that, the teams also met in the Test series Down Under where India won the series, leaving the world champions stunned and wounded.
Being aware of the excellent performance of the opponents in this ongoing tournament, the Sardar Singh led-Indian team, under the guidance of chief coach Paul van Ass, aims to put in extra efforts."The team is feeling motivated after the win against Canada yesterday. While beating them (Australia) will be tough but we are confident," Indian captain Sardar said in a release. "We will play an attacking game and maintain the pressure on them. We will ensure we do not repeat our mistakes and not allow them to score easy goals."
Defence has been a big worry for India. It has conceded late goals in most of the matches. Even a team like Canada exploited the eight-time Olympic champions' defensive structure and scored three goals.India have two preferred drag-flickers Rupinder Pal Singh and V.R. Raghunath who also have defensive duties along with seasoned Gurbaj Singh and youngsters Birendra Lakra and Kothajit Singh. They will have to improve their coordination and raise their level to stand tall against the aggressive Australian strikes led by veteran Jamie Dwyer.The Australian team on the other hand having already maintained a winning streak in all the previous matches will look to continue with their consistency and ensure the best position for themselves in the tournament.Indian chief coach Paul van Ass said, "Winning against the Australian team will be an achievement for sure and our players are working towards it with great zeal and enthusiasm. "We aim to gain another victory which will help us to conclude the tournament with a better position for the team."In other games of the day, South Korea will face New Zealand while Malaysia will meet Canada.