CWG 2022: India vs Australia shootout controversy explained - why was Savita Punia's save ruled out?

Savita Punia faces Ambrosia Malone in the penalty shootout between India and Australia Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Controversy marred the shootout between India and Australia at the end of the women's hockey semifinal at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

What happened?

The first penalty in the shootout was ordered to be retaken. India's Savita Punia had already made a save off the first attempt by Ambrosia Malone.

Malone scored off the second attempt.

Why did it have to be retaken?

The penalty was ordered to be retaken by an official, a technical delegate, who stood on the sidelines next to another official with a stopwatch. The process is that the delegate raises her hand and then drops it when the stopwatch has started. Simultaneously, the referee is supposed to indicate to the striker that she can advance with the penalty.

What happened on that attempt, the first of the night, was that the delegate had not dropped her hand. Therefore, the stopwatch had not started. You might have noticed on the television that the timer (8.0 seconds) never did start. The referee, though, waved the penalty on and while Malone was taking it, this delegate was saying loudly "no, no, no, wait, wait, wait"

Once the save was made, she shook her head at the umpire and waved her over. She then explained to her the situation and the referee communicated the decision for the retake.

What followed?

The penalty was retaken and converted. 0-0 became a 1-0. All three Indians missed, all three Australians scored. Australia won the shootout 3-0 and advanced to the final.

What was the reaction?

"We're not using it as an excuse, but we are human," Savita said after the match. "It definitely affected us psychologically." Lalremsiami, who took India's first penalty - now under the pressure of having to score - and missed, echoed the same thoughts.

Coach Jannekke Schopmann said on similar lines, "I'm not using it as an excuse, but you know, your goalkeeper makes a save, that's an enormous boost for the team and you turn the decision around... the team was really upset about it. I'm sure their focus was lost a little bit after that, and that's not an excuse, just a simple fact."

"It affected our momentum. [The retake] went in, and everyone is deflated, we don't need to be but it's human emotion... It would be better to have the strength to shake it off and think it doesn't matter, but of course, it does matter."

"I am angry, also because the umpires don't understand it either." She then explains the crux of her annoyance. "The Australians were not complaining. They know they've missed it. There was easily ten seconds that they got the opportunity to score, so why do you have to [retake it]?"

"I think those people [the delegates] just do not understand the game and the emotions that are involved."

"I've never experienced anything like this [in her playing and coaching career]," she said.

What have the FIH said?

In a statement, the world hockey federation said the penalty shootout "started mistakenly too early (the clock was not yet ready to operate), for which we apologise." It said the correct subsequent process was followed: the penalty shootout was retaken. "This incident will be thoroughly reviewed by the FIH in order to avoid any similar issues in the future," the statement added.