The Indian women’s hockey team, ranked 12th in the world, began their tour of Australia by beating the fourth-ranked Hockeyroos 1-0 in the first of three Test matches in Melbourne on Wednesday. The win was their first over Australia and set up by a second-quarter goal by captain Rani Rampal and consistent aggression in attack and defense ensured that the Australians were kept playing catch-up for the remainder of this engaging match.
A special mention is also reserved for India’s goalkeeper Rajani Etimmarpu, whose smart footwork added to the Hockeyroos’ frustration on a day that should rank highly for Indian women’s hockey.
Neither side was able to score during the first quarter as the defenders on both ends were kept busy, but a penalty corner by Rani in the 21st minute gave India the lead. The Indian eves pushed the Hockeyroos hard down the front line and even when the hosts had possession it was the Indians who surged forward and kept engaging in defensive tackles to blind the Hockeyroos’ attack.
“It was a really satisfying first half, I think we played well. It feels good to do well against higher ranked teams,” Rani said during the break, and her excellent stick work helped ensure India maintained their supremacy from the first half.
The aggression was maintained across the third and fourth quarters too, but too many turnovers by the Hockeyroos helped India’s cause. India’s midfielders managed to keep getting Rani and Deepika Thakur into play and the skipper, in particular, attacked the corners. This sustained pressure meant that the Hockeyroos often struggled to break past India’s defensive pack.
The latter half of the third quarter saw the Australians get tighter and more cohesive, but the deficit was still not overturned. Vandana Kataria came close to the goal at the end of the third quarter but missed from the left side, and then the Hockeyroos failed to use three PCs in the last 32 seconds.
The final quarter saw more botched execution from the Australians as India’s defenders maintained impeccable cool. India had another opportunity to score with their second PC with just under five minutes remaining on the clock, but the Hockeyroos goalkeeper Ashlee Wells did well to stop Sonika’s shot. The last time the two countries had met was during the Rio Olympics, when Australia won 6-1. The teams resume their series on November 25, followed by the third and final Test on November 27.
India had earlier this month lifted the Women’s Asian Champions Trophy with a 2-1 win over China. The Hockeyroos entered the tournament having beaten the Black Sticks women in the inaugural Trans-Tasman Trophy in Auckland last week.