This piece was published in Sportskeeda
The year 2014 has seen the Indian men’s hockey team play the world champions Australia quite frequently. Right from the Hockey World League final Round in New Delhi, India have met the Kookaburras four times and every time the margin of defeat tends to give an impression that the Sardar Singh-led side was indeed narrowing the gap with their illustrious opponents.
Of course, India were hammered 2-7 after leading 2-0 at half-time in New Delhi, but the Blue shirts exuded marked improvement in the subsequent three meetings, losing to them 0-4 in the World Cup and perhaps played the best game against Australia in recent times when they lost to them 2-4 in the league phase of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games before going down 0-4 in the final, probably running out of steam after their energy-sapping, hard-fought 3-2 upset win over higher ranked New Zealand in the semifinals.
And both teams squared off for the fifth time at the Perth Hockey Stadium, expectations were that India would build on their recent improvements and stay competitive. The Kookaburras were denied from scoring for most part of the opening quarter, but it did not take long for them to hit the straps.
Jeremy Hayward – named the Young Player of the 2014 World Cup – fired home from a penalty corner in the closing stages of the quarter. India forced a short corner in the second quarter, but failed to profit from them. Australia were reduced to ten men in the second quarter, but India failed to make the most of the numerical advantage. They were soon made to pay for that when Jake Whetton made the scoreline 2-0 as India had plenty of thinking to do at the half-time break.
Australia are so good at consolidating early leads and they showed it in no uncertain terms when Whetton added another in the 33rd minute to ensure the result was very much in their favour. India needed to respond strongly, but Australia had their tails up when Glenn Simpson whipped home a penalty corner in the 39th minute to hold a vice-like grip over their opponents.
Trailing 0-4, India had little fight in them in the final quarter and seemed resigned to their fate. Australia lead the four-test series 1-0.