After having faced two out of the top-3 ranked sides in their opening FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 encounters, World No. 4 Indian Men’s Hockey Team will be facing World No. 2 Australia in two intriguing back to back ties in Bhubaneswar at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium.
The first match will be played today (Friday).
With two wins against Netherlands in January, and another one against reigning World and European Champions Belgium in their first match on February 8, the India have climbed up to No. 4 in the FIH World Rankings, and will bank on consistent performances to shrug off stiff competition from the FIH Hockey Pro League Defending Champions.
India are currently third on the FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 points table with a total of 8 points from their four matches, resulting from two normal time wins, one shootout win. They have lost one game to Belgium. Meanwhile, the visitors sit on the fifth position with 6 points from their four matches, having won one match in normal time, one in shootout, one loss in normal time and another loss in shootout.
Speaking ahead of the match, Indian chief coach Graham Reid said, “I think we have played some very consistent level of hockey in our first four matches against The Netherlands and Belgium. We faced two of the top-3 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.”
Talking about the mood in the Indian camp, and the areas that they have been working on, Reid added, “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. 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.”
The Indian chief coach also spoke about playing different teams back-to-back in the FIH Hockey Pro League 2020, “I think the challenge for everyone is that we have to keep going again and again every other weekend. 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.”
The Australian chief coach Colin Batch spoke highly of India and the improvements they have made. “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. 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,” said the FIH Coach of the Year 2019 (Men).
Batch also spoke about how the FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 is going to benefit all the participating teams. He said, “We’re enjoying playing the best teams in the world in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics. We want to try out different line-ups in the build-up to the Olympics, to make sure that we have decided on our best line-up for Tokyo. I think almost all the teams taking part in the FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 have been following the same tactic, so it is certainly a great thing.”
Since 2013, the two teams have faced off on 30 occasions, with Australia winning 22 of those matches, while India have only won six times and two matches have ended in draws. But the confident hosts look optimistic to improve that record.
The match scheduled start at 7:00 pm at the Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar, will be broadcast LIVE and Exclusive on Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD.