India, as expected, registered a thumping win over Fiji on the opening day of the Round 2 men’s competition of the Hockey World League (HWL) at the National Stadium in New Delhi on Monday.
Before the start of the match, there was speculation as to whether India would be able to better its biggest-ever victory (24-1), recorded against the USA in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.
The 11th-ranked home team could not go past the long-standing mark, but was able to rout Fiji, placed 60 slots below it, 16-0 and captured three points.
Fiji warmed up with its ritualistic pre-match combative dance, akin to Haka performed by the New Zealand rugby team, and the Indian players applauded the visitors’ effort. However, on the pitch, the Indians were quite aggressive for their unfamiliar rivals.
Within the first five minutes, India was 2-0 with drag-flickers V.R. Raghunath and Rupinderpal Singh finding the target with consummate ease.
The host pressed hard from the right flank, with S.V. Sunil taking charge of most of the moves. The focus was on earning short corners and leaving the rest to the experts to enhance the lead.
Raghunath made it 3-0, forcing Fiji coach Hector Smith Sr. to replace goalkeeper Eric Niumata with Richard Eyre. But, it had little effect on the match.
Nithin Thimmaiah, debutant drag-flicker Gurjinder Singh, Danish Mujtaba and Rupinderpal shot home to give India a 7-0 lead at half-time.
India toyed with the Fiji defence to pump home nine more goals in the monotonous second period and refresh memories of the Olympic qualifier played last year at the same venue.
However, Fiji, which messed up a penalty corner and saw its only strike being disallowed, did not surrender meekly and put up a fight till the end.