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Can India do it against Australia? (10/13/2010)
--K. Arumugam
Indian team's character will be on test tomorrow when it takes World Champions Australia in their dream final. A medal assured, and the way it came about in a week that saw wonderful hockey being played amidst heavy head counts, Indians certainly will not be under pressure.

This is the first advantage for India.

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On paper and if some recent results are any indications, it appears on the face of it that the hosts do not stand a chance against clinically superb Australians.

Having said that one should at the same time understand the fact that despite the ultimate numbers the scoreboard would often display, the contests between these two giants have never been one-sided.

This is more so true on big stages.

At Barcelona Olympics, which, to me, is the worst ever Olympic performance of India, India lost to Australia by an odd goal. Manager NP Katare in his report mentioned a genuine goal of India was disallowed, the goal was disputable.

At the home Olympics in Sydeny in 2000, India's Mukesh Kumar struck a early blow that remains quickest goal conceded by Australia in any of their hockey internationals till date. Despite home conditions, India dominated the match, and the Australians were lucky to escape with a draw.

Two years later at KL World Cup, India was struggling against Malaysia, Japan and Korea, virtually agaisnt every team, but came out with a sterling show against the Aussies. The Aussies survived a scare before walking away with full points.

Who can forget Athens? Just 30 seconds was left for the full time, the score read 1-1, and India was inching towards a great draw. Then came the jewel of a Gazelle act, Jamie Dwyer running down all the way in his flank to beat Adrian in the cage in what can be categorized as the best ever goal scored in the Olympics, the hooter coming up as if it was waiting for that goal to be struck!

Its India that put Charlesworth's Australia in place when it chose to bring half a dozen youngsters to the latest Azlan Shah Cup. Australian's pride was hurt that day, ever complaining Charlesworth found every decision of the umpire wrong, even as India walked away with a win! Its long time since Australia was not the Azlan Shah Cup finalist.

If one is nostalgic about India's those loses enumerated above, now it is time to think the class is half full.

The difference between Brasa's India and Charlesworth's Australia of CWG is, as was the case in the past, is basics.

Near perfect traps, set piece excellence, freehit deflection for goal, at ease exchange of the bhall between flanks and such essentials.

If Australians are a robotic side, India are certainly emotional driven and crowd driven.

If what a Gurbaj can do -- he was superb at flanks as a genuine rightwinger giving crosses at will -- is any indications, then Mahdik can pep up attack, Pillay can do wonders not at the midfield but inside the circle also. It is not left to one Tushar, or one Shivender to do the act of scoring. In the Indian camp there are more strikers today, as never before, certainly than it was a year ago. The opportunistic strikers, be it Dharamvir or Sarwanjit Singh, are the sort of stuff that can surprise the Aussies.

What is more important tomorrow is, control the pace in the early hours, say first 15 minutes. This sort of approach, adopted excellently by India against compact England the other day, is needed. If India does not concede goals in the early phase, then the field can open up as teh Aussies would be under self-inflicted pressure to go for the elusive goal and it is the environ which can breed endless counter-attacks.

India played their worst against Scotland. Despite goals, the Pakistan contest is no indicator of anything.

The English one was classic, at least from Indian point of view because England is not what it used to be five or six years ago.

They are the top four teams of the recent World Cup. They plan for big things ahead of home Olympics. We played their game in the first half, and our game in the second half. India needs to do both for that great come back.

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undefined Against Australia we have to play our game both games. Will the players have energy, is the crowd be the energizer? Its hockey that lit up the CWG here. Be it results or crowd enthusiasm, there is nothing like hockey. Logic suggests Team India should continue its dream run.

Let's keep our fingers crossed.

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