"We fought very well tonight." That line from coach Graham Reid summed up the mood in the Indian camp as he spoke to journalists about what went right, and wrong in India's thrilling, albeit goalless, draw against England on Monday.
When asked about Hardik Singh, though, his expression changed. "I have to check, but it's not looking good." Hardik, India's most important midfielder, was chasing the ball in midfield late in the fourth quarter when he fell down holding his hamstring. A physio was called and he was carried off. That was a moment where the manic pace of the game seemed to take a pause -- for a moment, in the middle of all that tension, there was a sudden feeling of shock in the Indian camp; almost like they had almost conceded a last second goal. Later at the press conference, Reid would say that the injury might not be as bad as it looked initially when he came off the pitch, but the air of worry remained.
To give perspective, Hardik has a unique skillset within the Indian squad -- no one can move the ball forward on the dribble quite like he can. His incessant running caused major problems for England, as it had for Spain in India's first match. There's a reason why he made the cut for both
If the injury is serious, The doubt over his injury notwithstanding, this was a match which had a lot of positives -- for both teams.
How India withstood England's pressure
Before the match, it was felt that India would have to be at their best defensively against a rampaging England. As expected, Paul Revington's England team came out flying in the first half. They won five penalty corners in the first quarter to India's just one.
They threatened to break the deadlock in those moments and would've if not for some heroic blocking by the likes of Manpreet Singh, Harmanpreet Singh and Amit Rohidas. Manpreet especially deserved credit for the way he defended those powerful hits in quick succession. He was off like a sprinter off the blocks, read the angle well and blocked the shots. Fed up with his blocking, England tried a variation in their fifth penalty corner, but even then Manpreet found a way to get his stick to the ball.
At the end of second quarter, Nilam Sanjeep Xess pulled off a stunning diving tackle to take the ball off Liam Ansell, as he bore down on goal. Reid had talked about maintaining consistency and this India team certainly did that in this match.
As the match progressed into the last quarter, India created better. Mandeep Singh especially was a livewire inside the circle, every time he got the ball, it seemed India would score. His movements and stick work cause all sorts of problems for England. The fact that Oliver Payne, the English goalkeeper, was named man of the match stood as testament to the pressure India had applied on his goal.
Even then, though, England could've snatched the win in the final minute with Nicholas Bandurak hitting the post from a penalty corner.
England keeps the crowd silent
In a packed stadium, England managed to keep a crowd of 20,000 plus silent for the majority of the match.
When coach Revington was asked about communicating with his players in the half-time talk, he told the broadcasters that it wasn't a problem because his team did the job well to subdue the crowd.
Especially in the first half, the overwhelming emotion inside the stadium was tension, just like what it looked like within the team. The occasional noise was a cheer when India did especially well in defence. While it probably shows how engrossing the match was, India's players might have wanted them to lift the atmosphere a bit to create some sort of disturbance to England's play.
"The nature of both the teams are pretty level and it was a real international game that one," said Remington after the match and it showed in the scoreline, and in the performances.
India will now head to Bhubaneswar to play Wales, who lost both their matches in Pool D. If they beat Wales with a healthy goal-margin, India can finish on top, considering England face a tough outing against Spain in their final match.