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AZLAN SHAH CUP
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SAS 2016: FINAL: Real test for India today (4/16/2016)
--K. Arumugam
SAS 2016: FINAL: Real test for India today After a long time Australia men’s team has brought its best strength for the Azlan Shah Cup, it showed on the turf the way it comprehensively outplayed all the rivals with 3, 4 goals margin.

Classic players like Jamie Dwyer are on test so as to qualifying for the Rio.

That Australia is favourite today, as it was a dozen times in the past, is stating the fact.

Here lies the god send opportunity for India.

Unlike a decade before, India as a routine gets amble opportunity to rub shoulders with the most famous of the Oceania teams.

Being the FIH’s favourite hosts, Indian meets Australia in most major tournaments like Champions Trophy, top rounds of Hockey World League etc.

Almost the entire Australian team members participated in the all the four editions of Hockey India League.

Then the Indians have the bonus of Hockey India – Hockey Australia MoU: the annual bilateral series, only country other than Pakistan to have this privilege.

Therefore, the Indian public expects Indian team to play on equal terms with their today’s rival and not allow themselves to cave in, as we have been witnessing well over decades.

India is in the Finals today because it had outplayed the teams that are not qualified for the Rio like Pakistan and Malaysia, who are for sure used the Ipoh event to lay roadmap for future.

India on the hand even struggled against Canada, a superb individual game of captain Sardar Singh saving us from blushes.

Reaching the final is good for hockey’s profile, publicity and for any competitive sport that seeks commercial success.

India’s 5-1 win our Pakistan has already attracted wide coverage though it is wrong to judge Indian hockey team’s progress in terms of its performance against its neighbour team. Emotive but not educative.

So also Indians total dominance of Malaysia, as it came a crucial juncture in the tournament.

These two wins do not have much sporting merits, however uncharitable the comment seems.

Real test of Indian hockey’s progress will be measured now.

India trains more top players for longer durations than any other teams in the world. The extent of quality exposures Indian men have is enviable.

Therefore India has to play with purpose today.

Mindset is most important today. It’s not about playing a final but against the World’s best team.

India’s real test lies against three nations: Australia, The Netherlands, Germany.

India has brought itself a fortune of playing a final against one of them. Their rival today will go all out, called full press in coaching parlance.

India need to pull up its socks, thankfully remind itself of numerous chances it has got engage the world’s most envied team, and therefore show consistency and competitive equality.

How India will play today is more important that who wins the game. If India will be outplayed as it was in the league, which will mean we are where we are.

The onus is on the Indian players.

India went as an underdogs for the Sydney Olympics, but did a lot against the hosts. Would like to see a repeat of kind of 2000 Olympics stuff today (Mukesh struck within a minute, the home team struggled for a draw).

Now that Malaysia is not there in the final, home crowd will support India, and the setting could not have been better than now.

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