The Indian National Team in the 1994 World Cup, Sydney, consisted one of the best off-the-ball players, Edward Aranha, the midfield-supremo Jude Felix and also the goal-poacher Gavin Ferreira. In spite of having such wonderful and great players in the team, Dhanraj Pillay became successful to show his talent in front of the world.
The 1994 World Cup was held at the Homebush Stadium, also known as the Homebush Bay Stadium in Sydney and the Indian team played its first match of the tournament against the Korean team. The team was quite determined of playing well against Korea and Dhanraj was also firm in giving a wonderful performance in the match. Dhanraj played in the upper half of the field along with Edward and Gavin in the match; however, he was a few steps behind the other two. Dhanraj Pillay played quite well in the first half of the match. Though he helped a lot in making some good moves yet the Indian team could not convert those moves into goal. Dhanraj played more aggressively in the second half of the match and he even got closer of scoring a goal, though he missed by a whisper. He continued playing in the upfront with immaculate control in not giving away the edge to the Koreans and after a few minutes, the Indian team scored its first goal in the match. India then scored another goal within another few minutes, thanks to a wonderful zigzagging run by Dhanraj Pillay. He fooled the Korean defense by this great run and then passed the ball to Aranha to score the goal. India eventually won the match by a margin of 2-0.
The Korea match was the match that helped Dhanraj Pillay a lot to catch the attention of the world of Hockey and his unusual hair style and appearance on the field, made him popular. After having a successful mission against the Koreans, Dhanraj Pillay started his preparations to play against the World Champions, Holland in the next match of the tournament. Dhanraj was quite confident in playing well against the Holland team and his confidence also encouraged the other players of the Indian team. Dhanraj Pillay was a bit restrained in the first few minutes of the match and he started his own play when the match was 15 minutes old. He started to find space upfront as India dominated the exchanges; however, the Holland team soon got a goal against the flow of the match.
The Indian team scored the equaliser just 2 minutes before the break, when Gavin sent the ball into the net and Dhanraj played a crucial role in the goal. His wonderful run through the Dutch defence and a perfectly measured pass helped Gavin to score the goal. Dhanraj continued his wonderful performance in the second half of the match also and made some good moves to keep the Dutch defense under huge pressure. As Dhanraj was making some great runs through the Dutch defense, the Dutch players started to commit fouls and one of them even got a yellow card for obstructing Dhanraj, physically. However, all his efforts went in vain, as India eventually lost the match 2-4 to Holland.
The Indian team played its third match in the 1994 World Cup, Sydney against the South Africa team and team had to win the match in order to stay alive in the tournament. The Indian team was having a lot of problems with the scorching heat in Homebush and Dhanraj Pillay was also facing the same problem. However, India started attacking from the very first minute of the match and got some close chances to score a goal, though none of them was materialized. The South Africa team scored the first goal of the match in the 20th minute, making full use of a relaxing Indian defense. Dhanraj Pillay tried his best to make a difference with his wonderful runs and the South African defense kept on denying him an ideal opening for goal. However, the Indians eventually became successful to keep the match drawn on 2-2.
Facing a condition where India had to beat Germany to get into the Semi-Final of the World Cup, the Indian team showed a great team spirit, as everyone tried their best for the team. The Indians played the match after taking adequate preparation and Dhanraj Pillay once again bore a big responsibility on his shoulders. Dhanraj started playing well right from the first minute of the match and he was playing on the right, cutting into the circle, whenever he saw Jude moving up. The hardly-fought match saw the Indians giving their best efforts to beat the powerful German side and Dhanraj Pillay running at his usual bullet speed. He was instrumental in scoring the equaliser for India in the 30th minute. Dhanraj continued to break through the German defense in the second half also and though he tried his best, the Indian team once again lost the match by 1-2.
Then, in the next match against Argentina, India had to play well in order to get chance for playing in the 5th/6th place play-off match. Dhanraj Pillay started the match in his usual form and he showed his prowess going past two Argentineans. The Indian team scored the first goal of the match in the 22nd minute of the match, through Edward Aranha's stick. India soon scored the second goal of the match and went to the break, leading by 2-0. However, India failed to keep the momentum going in the second half and the Argentineans soon equalised the score at 2-2. The match eventually went on to the tie-breakers and as the Indian goalkeeper A.B. Subbiah saved two penalty strokes from Argentina, India got a win in the match. Dhanraj Pillay did well to score a goal in the tie-breakers. India then played against the England team in the 5th/6th play-offs and earned a 1-0 victory in the match to finish fifth in the 1994 World Cup, Sydney. The Indian team finished the tournament within the top six teams of the world, after a long gap. Dhanraj Pillay played extremely well throughout the tournament and that made him a household name among the Hockey enthusiasts in all over the world.