As in cricket, India are a formidable hockey side in their own den but if the erstwhile giants of the game want to play in their second consecutive Commonwealth Games final they will need to overcome challenges away from home, feels Australian legend Jamie Dwyer. (Indian Hockey Needs to Improve in Glasgow: Terry Walsh)
Dwyer would love to see an India-Australia duel in the final of the upcoming Commonwealth Games to be held in Glasgow from July 24 to August 3, but he said for that to happen the Sardar Singh-led side will have to "play to their potential".
"One thing I always worry about the current India team is their ability to play away from home. Like their cricket team, the hockey players are unbelievable in India and they thrive playing in their own country," the 35-year-old mercurial Australian striker told PTI in an exclusive interview from Perth.
"But away from home everything looks different for them be it weather, pitch, food etc. They need to overcome those challenges and play to their potential. I think if they can do that and play to their potential, they will definitely be in the final," Dwyer said.
"I expect them to make the semifinals; that's for sure and after that anything can happen from there. I would love to see an India-Australia final even though Australia start as clear favourites," he added.
The 35-year-old Dwyer, a five-time world hockey player of the year, feels India are now a much-improved side from 2010 Delhi Games, where the Kookaburras thrashed the Asian side 8-0 in the summit clash at the Major Dhyan Chand stadium here.
"In the last Commonwealth Games they played well and I think we were just lucky to get that scoreline in the final. But I think they are starting to get much better, much more consistent. They have got more depth in their squad now," he viewed.
"We played OK against India (in the World Cup). It's hard for me to judge India because we won the final 6-1 but beat India 4-0. They are a good team but they will have to improve a fair beat if they want to be among the best teams in the world."
Three-time Olympian Dwyer has been an integral part of Australian hockey team since making his debut in 2001.
In his 13-year-old illustrious career, which is still going strong, Dwyer has fetched a rich haul of medals, including the recent World Cup gold, his second, at The Hague, Netherlands.
"Yes it has sunk in but for sure it's a great feeling to have won the World Cup. We went there to win that and I am very happy to play well in the final. We are world champions again which is a very good feeling," said the forward, who has one Olympic gold, two world titles, three Commonwealth Games gold and six Champions Trophy titles to his credit.
Even at 35, Dwyer still is one of the best strikers of world hockey and he proved that recently by scoring a goal in Australia's 6-1 triumph over the Netherlands in the World Cup final. But despite a strong performance at the recent Hockey World Cup, Dwyer had been left out of the Australian side for the Glasgow Games to make way for younger players, a decision which "hurt" the hockey great.
"Yeah, it did hurt me because I wanted to go to the Commonwealth Games but they didn't pick me, not too sure why. Ric (Charlesworth) selected the team and then he retired. But I am OK, I am not down. The World Cup was the biggest tournament for me this year and to win that was nice," a notably dejected Dwyer said. "I would have loved to go to the Commonwealth Games but I can't do anything about that now."