India shook off a disappointing FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup campaign to climb to the top of the 2022-23 FIH Pro League table.

Playing newly-minted world champions Germany, and Australia, India secured three outright wins while also winning a shootout bonus point in the fourth match against the Kookaburras.

After playing eight matches in the league this season, India sit atop the table with five wins, two draws and one loss for a total of 19 points.

Here’s a quick recap of how the matches over the past week went.

Match 1: India 3-2 Germany

Player of the match: Sukhjeet Singh

The first match of the mini-tournament saw India take on world champions Germany. Sporting a new-look forward line-up of Gurjant Singh, Abhishek, Selvam Karthi and Sukhjeet Singh, India started brightly looking to exploit spaces left in the German half with their pace.

But it was Dilpreet Singh, playing in midfield, who had the first big chance of the match. With his back to goal, Dilpreet played an audacious overhead flick off a long ball which nearly caught out Alexander Stadler in goal.

Germany dominated the proceedings in the second quarter, but to their credit, India did not concede any big chances.

The hosts took the lead at the end of the half through captain Harmanpreet Singh who fired in his flick past a diving Stadler. India doubled their lead soon in the third quarter when Jarmanpreet Singh’s defence-spliiting pass was deflected into goal by Sukhjeet.

India made it 3-0 two minutes before the end of the quarter with yet another sublime pass from the deep. Manpreet Singh’s fizzer took a deflection off a German stick but Karthi did well to bring the ball down. He shot past the advancing Stadler with Sukhjeet ensuring the ball crossed the line.

Germany scored at the end of the quarter through Paul-Philipp Kaufmann and set the match for an exciting finish by making it 3-2 through Michel Struthoff two minutes from full time. But India defended well to hold on to win.


Match 2: India 5-4 Australia

Player of the match: Harmanpreet Singh

India and Australia played five high-scoring matches in the lead up to the World Cup and they picked up from where they left with another thriller.

The Kookaburras scored in the second minute after Manpreet Singh inadvertently deflected Joshua Beltz’s pass into his own goal. But India scored twice in the final two minutes to take the lead, skipper Harmanpreet thumping two drag-flicks past a helpless Benjamin Rennie.

Two minutes in to the second quarter, India won a penalty stroke and Jugraj Singh stepped up to make it 3-1. The hosts scored once again near the end of the quarter with Karthi showing excellent skills to create space for himself to power in a fourth goal.

Australia came out strong in the second half and they duly halved India’s lead midway through Q3 with Ky Willott scoring a poacher’s goal. The Kookaburras further reduced the deficit after Ben Staines reacting quickest to put a rebound off a PC into goal.

Harmanpreet, however, completed his hat-trick with yet another powerful drag-flick. Australia pulled another goal back a minute later through Tim Howard with less than four minutes left.

Australia had chances for a couple of late PCs but the Indian defence stood strong to hang on to victory.


Match 3: India 6-3 Germany

Player of the match: Selvam Karthi

Like they did against Australia, India conceded in the opening two minutes off a PC with Tom Grambusch opening the scoring for the world champions.

The second quarter saw a flurry of goals – five in the space of five minutes – as India went into half-time with a 4-2 lead. Jugraj began the proceedings with a well taken drag-flick in the 20th minute. A minute later, Abhishek put India ahead after capitalising on a mix-up in the German defence.

Gonzalo Peillat hauled Germany level from a PC in the 22nd minute only for Karthi to give India the lead by deflecting in Sukhjeet’s cross. Harmanpreet found the top corner with his drag-flick to send India into the break at half-time.

Germany came out all guns blazing in Q3 and reduced the deficit with Marco Miltkau and Kaufmann combining well to set up Malte Hellwig for Germany’s third. The hosts kept Germany at bay with some defence for the rest of Q3.

Karthi got his second of the night seconds into Q4 off Jarmanpreet’s deflected cross. Abhishek finished off a good attacking move in the 50th minute to make it 6-3. Both sides had chances to score but were denied by some good defending.


Match 4: India 2-2 Germany (India win the shootout 4-3)

Player of the match: Harmanpreet Singh

Vivek Sagar Prasad, in his 100th international, gave India the lead in the second minute of play with a ferociously hit reverse-hit. That was the only goal in the first half as both teams engaged in a midfield battle.

Australia though started to make more attacking in-roads in the second half and were rewarded when Nathan Ephraums was brought down with a harsh tackle from Pawan, and the Australian forward himself stepped up to slot home the penalty stroke.

India took the lead again in the final quarter. Sukhjeet Singh, on the left side of the shooting circle played swivelled smartly before playing a cross that was deflected into goal by an Australian stick.

But it was Ephraums again who scored off an Australian PC routine to equalise and take the game to the shootout.

There, Sreejesh, with all his experience and expertise as a shot-stopper put off the Australians three times to help India win the shootout 4-3 and earn the bonus point.