The Indian men’s hockey team would look to put up a disciplined performance and avoid unnecessary cards in its bid to return to winning ways against Canada at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Wednesday. After a thumping 11-0 win over Ghana in their opener, India squandered a three-goal advantage and were held 4-4 by hosts England in their second pool B match. The Indians started brilliantly and dominated the first two quarters to enjoy a comfortable 3-0 lead at half time. But the Englishmen came out hard in the final two quarters to stun the Indians.
England were also helped by three cards to India’s Varun Kumar twice, one for five minutes in the first half and for 10 minutes in the second half, besides a 10-minute suspension for Gurjant Singh in the final quarter for dangerous play.
England made full use of those lapses to put pressure on the Indian defence and they eventually wilted under pressure to share the spoils.
India vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh conceded that they need to be more disciplined going forward.
“Our resounding win against Ghana was the perfect way to start our Commonwealth Games campaign. But we are a little bit disappointed about our performance against England.
“There are several takeaways from that match for us particularly when it comes to discipline and not letting our guard down when we have a good lead on board,” he said.
The Indians are placed second in the pool with four points from a win and a draw, while England are in the lead with seven points from three games.
A win against Canada would consolidate India’s position in the group and take them one step closer towards a semifinal spot.
Going by form and rankings, it should be a cakewalk for India. While India are placed fifth in the world, Canada are lying way below, in the 13th position.
The last time India played against Canada, in the 2019 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, the Manpreet Singh-led side won 7-3.
Despite the draw against England, the Indians would look to play to their strength, which is attacking hockey. However, while doing so, they will need to guard against complacency.
“Canada is a tough opponent, it has been a while since we faced them in any official tournament, but our game plan is clear and the players are ready to execute it perfectly as our preparations for this game have been rigorous,” Harmanpreet said.
After Canada, India will round off their pool engagements with a match against Wales on Thursday.