'The final against Australia is a big lesson ahead of the World Cup,' says Hardik Singh
New Delhi, August 25, 2022
Midfielder Hardik Singh on Wednesday admitted that the loss to Australia in the hockey final of the Commonwealth Games would haunt him for some time.
"I still think about that match when I am alone and it does affect me. It will take some time to overcome the 0-7 loss and this match is a big lesson for us ahead of our preparations for the World Cup in January," he told Hockey India.
"The Australia game was a good test for me too, to check my capability and how I can cope under pressure especially when two of our big players in the midfield Manpreet and Vivek Sagar were injured. I surely could have been better in that game. Going forward, I want to focus more on controlling the tempo of the game and build on leadership qualities," he said.
"I was really excited about the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, because this was my first CWG. We were carrying the confidence from last year's Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games performance and we really wanted to win the gold here because the men's team has never won the top prize in hockey at CWG," Hardik explained about the team's motivation ahead of their campaign.
He agreed that the expectations were rather high for CWG. "I still feel, at the Olympics, we were the underdogs. Yes, everyone wanted us to win a medal but there were stronger teams who would give us a tough fight but in the Commonwealth Games that wasn't the case. The least that was expected from us was that we would play in the final," he said.
Hardik was brimming with confidence as the campaign kicked off. The Indian team led by Manpreet Singh began with a bang, beating Ghana 11-0, the team's reality check came in their second game when they took on England.
"We were poised to win 4-0 but ended up drawing 4-4 against England. That's when our mindset changed that this tournament is going to be far tougher than what we anticipated. We bounced back in the next two league games against Canada (8-0) and Wales (4-1), and were of the impression that we would probably face New Zealand in the semis but South Africa beating them to make the final four took us by surprise and we knew our task was cut out," he said.
India managed to edge past South Africa in a hard-fought 3-2 win where Abhishek, Mandeep Singh and Jugraj Singh scored a goal each.
"This match I particularly enjoyed. From what we had seen of South Africa in this tournament, we knew their performance had only gone upwards since the time we played against them in the Pro League earlier this year. It was a tough match and we knew we had to dominate them right from the start. These are the kind of matches that show you how good you are," Hardik said.