India defeated Japan in their opening Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2016 match 2-1, but they need to play better hockey if they are to emerge victorious against tournament favourites Australia, Thursday. This match against the Aussies will prove to be India's strongest test in the competition.
Australia have not played a single match in the competition, but they will be up for it against Sardar Singh and his men. India might not have come with their strongest team, but Australia, on the contrary, have come with a strong team, and have the quality to defeat India in Ipoh, Malaysia.
Australia have always been a strong team in the Sultan Azlan Shah, having won the competition eight times in the past. With world-class players such as Jamie Dwyer, Mark Knowles and Chris Cirrello, they have the ammunition to win their ninth title in Malaysia.
These players have been playing for Australia for a long time now, helping them become the best side in world hockey. Australia are ranked number one at present, and will be using this tournament as perfect preparation for 2016 Rio, where they head as favourites as well.
India, who have a number of youngsters in their team, did not look impressive against Japan despite the victory. Some of the players even failed to trap a simple ball, which was embarrassing.
However, as the game progressed India looked better and played decent hockey in the second half. India played the game in a higher tempo and troubled Japan, but against Australia, who play the game at a furious pace, Sardar's team needs to maintain such rhythm for the entire four quarters of the game.
India coach, Roelant Oltmans expressed happiness after defeating Japan despite lacking "sharpness" in the first half.
"When players haven't played competitive matches for a while, they lack a certain amount of match sharpness and that was evident in our play in the first half. But, we changed that, and came out with the victory, which is the important thing. A huge amount of credit must also go to Japan, for having given us a tough outing. They are a young team and must be applauded," Hockey India official website quoted Oltmans as saying.
Australia are looking to get off to a brilliant start in the competition, defeating India, while Sardar and his men are gunning for back-to-back victories. If India manage to register a victory against Australia, it will be a huge morale booster for the team in Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
Where to watch live
Sultan Azlan Shah Cup match between India vs Australia is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. local time (1:35 p.m IST) start. Viewers in India can watch India vs Australia live on Star Sports 1/HD and Star Sports 3/HD, with live streaming on starsports.com.