History beckons the Indian men’s hockey team as it looks to end Australia’s dominance in the Commonwealth Games by securing a maiden gold in the quadrennial showpiece here on Monday. India has never won a gold in the six editions of CWG. Two silver medals in 2010 and 2014 editions is the best they could achieve since hockey was introduced in the Games in 1998. In contrast, world No.1 Australia has by far been the most dominant team in CWG, winning all six golds till date.

So, finishing on top of the podium by getting past the mighty Kookaburras would definitely be a tall task for India and they will have to play out of their skin to achieve the elusive feat.

But the historic bronze in Tokyo Olympics after a hiatus of 41 years have instilled a high level of self belief among the Indian players.

Already assured of a silver, a gold from here will be icing on the cake for the Indians and the Manpreet Singh-led side won’t like to miss such an opportunity.

But to achieve that, the Indians will have to improve on all counts as the Australians won’t miss out to pounce on any lapse from their opponents.

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Both India and Australia recorded identical 3-2 wins over South Africa and hosts England to reach the final.

India’s backline led by ever-reliable custodia PR Sreejesh will have to be on its toes and can ill-afford to commit silly mistakes as the Australians are expected to put relentless pressure.

India’s midfield under captain Manpreet has been in fine form with Hardik Singh and Nilkanta Sharma showing sparks.

But it is the forwardline which has been the most impressive. Mandeep Singh has been phenomenal up front with his great runs and dribbling skills inside the D, while Akashdeep Singh too has shone bright.

The likes of Shamsher Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh and Abhishek too have looked threatening in the tournament so far.

One area which chief coach Graham Reid would be worried about is penalty corner execution as India converted just one out of the seven against South Africa despite having quality dragflickers such as Harmanpreet, Varun Kumar, Jugraj Singh and Rohidas up their ranks.

In fact, the reason behind India’s poor PC conversion rate on Saturday was South Africa goalkeeper Gowan Jones, who pulled off fantastic saves on multiple occasions to deny Harmanpreet and Co.

In the bronze medal play-off, hosts England will play South Africa on Monday.

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