Inside the first 10 minutes, the match was over. Done, and dusted.
Kazakhstan, the World No 34 women's team, knew it. So did India, playing every bit like a team ranked inside the top 10 in the world. Statistics can often mislead, but India's 5-0 lead by the 10th minute of the group stage encounter at the Asian Games on Tuesday was a perfectly accurate summation of the situation as was the eventual scoreline of 21-0.
Having endured a demoralising defeat at the Women's World Cup to Ireland in shootouts earlier this month, a result like this was just the shot in the arm the players needed for a tournament where gold medal will also secure entry into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
While Navjot Kaur scored five, Gurjit Kaur pumped in four, Lalremsiami chipped in with three. But it was Vandana Katariya who really stole the show, finding pockets of spaces in the Kazakhstan 'D' and exploiting it with piercing runs.
It was she who crossed the ball across the Kazakhstan goalmouth with the accuracy of a laser-guided missile to give India their fourth and fifth goals.
It was she who, minutes later, scored through the legs of Kazakhstan goalkeeper Guzal Bakhavaddin with four magical touches, despite having her back to the goal and the spectre of the Kazakh goalie harrying her constantly.
It was she who scored India's 12th and 19th goals later — the former goal coming after she deflected a speeding shot into the goal while the latter came off a diving deflection more suited to games which go down to the wire.
The team's drag-flick expert Gurjit too proved a point or two with her four goals. After all, India had converted just three of the 19 PCs they got in their opener against Indonesia.
At the break after the first quarter, the on-pitch camera had caught coach Sjoerd Marijne telling drag-flicker Gurjit that she had been wasteful. She had started India's goal glut on Tuesday with a slick penalty corner to the right-hand corner — a shot that oozed precision rather than the raw power that you would expect from a drag-flick. But the rest of the quarter had seen India squander three PCs.
Marijne's speech clearly had its effect. Two of Gurjit's goals came from drag-flicks deftly flying into the top corner, while her fourth goal came from a stroke.
Interestingly, Marijne was also overheard after the first quarter by the on-pitch camera telling his players, "I want you hungry. One-two, one-two passing. What's important is your behaviour."
The Dutchman's words were understandable. In their opener against Indonesia — a team making its debut at the Asian Games — India had surged to a 6-0 lead at half-time. In the next 30 minutes — against a team they had on the mat — they could score just twice.
The men's team, by contrast, had given a demonstration in ruthlessness on Monday, pumping in 17 goals against the host nation.
"One of the best qualities of the women's team which emerged in this match were that they were ruthless," former India hockey captain Viren Rasquinha told Firstpost after the game. "It's easy to ease off (when your lead is huge), because you tend to get bored after a while. There seems to be sense of urgency and ruthless in this team. I didn't feel at any point that they let the pace or the intensity drop."
Rasquinha, who currently works as a hockey expert for Sony Pictures Networks, added, "The players didn't let up at any stage on the pace and intensity. They kept trying to score more goals. That's a good thing because in the tougher matches, they're not going to get as many chances.
"The second aspect which I really liked is the unselfish play by the forwards. If they are seeing a player in a better position in the 'D', they're making sure they pass the ball. This will hold the team in good stead in the future."
While India have gone to the top of Pool B after two effortless wins in two matches, tougher tests await.
"I don't want to dwell too much in this game, as it will be a totally different ballgame against South Korea. They're the defending champions. The Indians are not going to get so much space or opportunities in the D.
"Indians should be thinking of the tougher matches ahead, not gloating about a 21-0 win over Kazakhstan," says Rasquinha.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Aug 22, 2018 13:11:13 IST