Dec 2, 2011

Five things I learnt from India vs Malaysia

VR Raghunath’s golden goal against Malaysia sealed the place for Indian team in the semi-finals of Champions Challenge. India led the first half 2-1 thanks to a brace by Sandeep Singh. Malaysia came back strongly in the second half of the game and took 4-2 lead before Indian team equalised in the last four minutes of game. The game then moved to extra-time where Raghunath clinched the winning goal with the last move of the play.

Following are the five things that I learnt from India vs Malaysia

1.  Defence needs improvement
India beat Malaysia 5-4 to reach semi-finals

Indian defence continues to disappoint in the series and same problem was faced in the game against Malaysia. Sandeep was too slow and without any presence in the field. He failed to commit in the game at least 3-4 times for which Indian team even got punished. India’s best player last year, Sardara Singh is also having a bad time in Indian defence. He was also inconsistent in the game and inexperience of Raghunath did not help Indian team in the defence. The only saving grace for India was the goalkeeper PR Sreejesh who made many brilliant saves to keep Indian team in the game. If not for goal-keepers (Cheti and Sreejesh), Indian team would have lost all the games in the tournament.

2. Gurbaj and Arjun wasted on flanks

India’s two players who have the ability to control the game in the midfield are wasted on the flanks. Arjun and Gurbaj easily the best players in the side are played on the right flank and thereby exposing the midfield and Sardar Singh who has to  perform two duties due to lack of proper defenders in the team. Former Indian coach Jose Brasa did the same mistake and current coach Michael Nobbs is following and committing the same mistake again. By playing them in the centre, Indian team can have more possession and thus control the tempo of the game

3. Indiscipline 

Another disappointing thing from the tournament apart from defence is the indiscipline of the players. Indiscipline of Indian players continued against Malaysia too where the team received four cards in the game. Indian team received three yellow cards and one green card, which kept Indian team a man down for at least 15 minutes of the game.  Gurbaj Singh goat first yellow as early as fifth minute of the game, Rupinder Pal Singh joined the yellow card club within the fifteen minutes of the game. Defender Manpreet Singh got the third yellow card for the Indian team in the 20 minute of the game. Fourth player to join the card club was VR Raghunath in the second half of the game. Poor discipline is putting Indian team under great pressure and the team nearly paid for the mistakes in the game. Indian team might have got lucky this time, but better teams will surely punish India if the indiscipline continues

4. Sreejesh-India's saviour

One Indian player who deserves pat on the back for an awesome performance against Malaysia was the goalkeeper PR Sreejesh. Sreejesh’s heroics between the sticks saved India from missing out the semi-final spot of Champions Challenge. Right from the start to the last minute of extra-time Sreejesh was on his toes and kept thwarting Malaysian attack. Though he was beaten for times by the Malaysians, he did not give up and made awesome saves and kept the Indian team in the game single-handedly.

5. Sandeep's days look numbered

Game against Malaysia turned out to be another big disappointment for ‘defender’ Sandeep Singh. From the first game till the quarter final of Champions Challenge he has failed to carry out his defensive duties. Well everyone knows he is not a good defender, but he was nearly pathetic against Malaysian side. Sandeep Singh was too slow on the field and gave away the balls easily. He even looked uninterested in the game. Sandeep Singh is great penalty corner expert, the best in the world, but poor defending is not going to help him cement his place in the team with VR Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh at his toes. 

India will take on South Africa on Saturday in the semi-finals of Champions Challenge. The game will will be shown live on TEN Sports.

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