Australia justified their number one world ranking by putting up an emphatic performance against India, who were supposed to give the Aussies a close fight in the Hockey World League semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium. India gave their best, but the Australians outclassed them 6-2.
With this result, Australia topped group A, while India finished second. Australia face Ireland in the quarterfinals of the Hockey World League semifinals and India face a tricky affair against Malaysia on 1 July.
India might still be learning the tricks of playing "total hockey" under new coach, Paul van Ass, but the Australians have mastered it with their quick passes, swift movement and brilliant stickwork. The first Australian goal was testimony to the fact, as Jamie Dwyer danced through to make a pass to an unmarked Aran Zalewski, who drilled the ball low to open the scoring.
While the Australia move was good, the Indian team defense was poor as well while conceding the goal. If one gives a player with the quality of Dwyer open space to work, he is surely going to exploit such conditions to the fullest.
The Indians will take time to learn new strategies introduced by van Ass, but with the Rio Olympics looming large, they have to adapt quickly.
The Australians were in full flow as they did not give India much chance. Be it their circle penetrations, penalty corner conversions or their brilliant defence, they were exceptional in all departments of the game.
Australia came hard at the Indians, scoring at regular intervals. Dwyer had made it 2-0 before the first quarter came to a close and the second quarter also belonged to Australia as they scored another goal to take a 3-0 lead.
In the first two quarters of the game, India were pegged in their half, and they passed too many balls back to their defenders as they failed to penetrate the Australian defence.
Such helplessness of the Indian players showed us how India could use an attacking star like Dhanraj Pillay, who penetrated any defence in the world, with his skills. Pillay used his stick skills to dance his way through.
India's skipper, Sardar Singh showed some glipmses of such class against Australia with a few nutmegs, but his game was limited with other players failing to make those elusive runs in search for a goal.
However, India showed some better skills in the last two remaining quarters as they were able to pull two goals back in the game, which should be taken as a positive, as this was the the first time in the competition that the Australians conceded two goals.
Birendra Lakra and Ramandeep Singh scored for India. But, the hero of the day was Australia's Chris Ciriello, who scored a hat-trick for Australia to set them on a cruise.
This defeat showcased India's weakness at the back as they were easily penetrated, and the lack of ability of their forwards, who were easily intercepted by the Australian defenders.
Another major problem for India during the competition has been their penalty conversion rate, which they need to improve on when they take on Malaysia in the quarters of the Hockey World League Semifinals.