CWG hockey: Lack of fitness led to defeat, says skipper Rajpal

New Delhi, Oct 7 (IANS) India’s skipper Rajpal Singh attributed his team’s 2-5 defeat to Australia in the hockey competition of the Commonwealth Games Thursday to lack of fitness.

Australia beat India by an identical margin in the 2010 World Cup played at the same venue, after leading 2-1 at half-time, and Rajpal felt that the Indian team needed to be much fitter if they hoped to compete on equal footing with the World champions.

‘We have to get to their (Australia’s) fitness levels first before even talking about tactics and strategies,’ said Rajpal during the post-match Media conference.

On the other hand, coach Jose Brasa took pride in saying that for the first time in many months, Australia were indeed stretched like never before.

‘If you look at Australia’s performance when they won the Champions Trophy this year, they won all their matches against other top teams by a big margin. But tonight, we showed that we can match them, even if it was just 35 minutes,’ said the Spaniard.

Responding to a query on fitness levels, Brasa asserted that India’s focus was not so much on Commonwealth Games as the next month’s Asian Games in China.

‘We are trying to peak at the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games is just a stepping stone. It is impossible to maintain the same fitness levels at two major tournaments, especially when there is a gap of just four weeks,’ he said.

On India’s failure to convert any of the six penalty corners they received against Australia, Brasa said: ‘We are the best in the World at penalty-corner conversions in training, but worst in the World in a match.

‘We were lucky to convert two against Malaysia (one by Dhananjay Mahadik and the other by Sandeep Singh). Sandeep had three other attempts in that match and all his tries stuck the goalkeeper in the body. That never happens in practice.’

Brasa pointed out that the first two goals that Australia scored tonight were gifts and so also their third goal that he said was due to a mistake that is not usually seen in international competition.

Earlier, Australian team coach Richard Charlesworth opined that the Indian play was rather predictable and it helped his team to control the game in the second half.

‘Indians usually steal the ball in the defence and counter-attack. We gave them too much space in the first half but in the second, we took risks and won the match,’ he said.

The fact that Indians kept up this tactic was to Australia’s advantage and they proceeded to dominate the second-half, Charlesworth observed.

The Aussie coach said that in the World Cup game, his team had dominated the entire 70 minutes unlike tonight when only in the second-half did they take control of the proceedings.