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Hockey World League: Time for Sardar Singh and Co to deliver

Unpredictable India will have to stay focussed when they take on dangerous Belgium in the semi-final in Raipur today

Raipur: Inconsistency has been India’s bane for a long time and the biggest task for Sardar Singh and Co. would be to come up with a steady performance when they take on a dangerous Belgium in the semifinal of the Hockey World League (HWL) Final on Saturday.


The victorious Indian team acknowledge the crowd after beating Great Britain in their quarter-final in Raipur on Thursday. Pic/Getty images

After a poor start to the tournament — a 0-3 loss to Argentina — India produced a fine show to hold Olympic champions Germany 1-1 before dishing out another mediocre performance to lose 1-3 against title-holders Netherlands.

But an unpredictable India then saved their best for the tough quarter-final clash against World No 4 Great Britain and eked out a close 2-1 win.

The up and down showing is worrying India’s chief coach Roelant Oltmans and the Dutchman was candid enough to say that he can’t guarantee a consistent performance from his wards in the next match.

“If you ask me whether we will be able to give a performance like this (against Great Britain) again, then frankly speaking I am not sure about it. But of course in the next two days we will work towards that,” Oltmans said about India’s inconsistency.

Barring a few glitches, the Indians were near perfect against Great Britain. The hosts sparkled in all departments of the game to produce their best performance of the tournament so far.

India's misfiring forwardline finally showed some promise with Talwinder Singh scoring a fine field goal and Ramandeep Singh hitting the post on one occasion against Great Britain on Friday. Young Mohammad Amir Khan too impressed with his performance.

Midfield masterclass
But what has been inspiring for India in this tournament is the performance of its midfield led by skipper Sardar Singh.

The performance of the midfield, the link between forwardline and defence, is key to any team’s success in international hockey and the likes of Sardar, Kothajit Singh and Manpreet Singh have stood upto the occasion, atleast here.

Defence has always been India’s weak link and has wilted under pressure on numerous occasions. But against Great Britain, the backline managed to stand tall to thwart relentless pressure in the fourth quarter. India coach Oltmans too understands the significance of today’s match when he said it’s time for the past masters of the game to shine in major international events. "It’s nice to be in the semi-final but it’s time to win a medal in a major tournament and this is a major tournament and that’s what we are aiming for," he had said.

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