| Skipper Dhanraj Pillay, seen in action against Argentina on Wednesday, has promised 100 per cent in India’s last round-robin match versus Pakistan on Friday. (Reuters)
Amstelveen: Their confidence shattered by three defeats in four matches, India will have to play some extraordinary hockey against arch-rivals Pakistan on Friday to salvage some pride at the Champions Trophy.
It will be a battle of nerves and wits more than skill and strategy when the sub-continental rivals meet at the Wagener Stadium.
If the Pakistanis feel that they enjoy the upper hand, then their optimism is not misplaced, given the sorry state of affairs in the Indian camp.
Indian coach Rajinder Singh is apparently at his wit’s end trying to make sense out of his team’s poor showing here, much less speak confidently about the upcoming game against Pakistan.
“Yes, any match against Pakistan is a big game for both the teams. I know for sure that people back home would probably forgive the team for its bad showing here if we beat Pakistan tomorrow.”
Rajinder felt that the players have lost focus, considering the number of scoring chances they messed up in each of the four matches so far.
“We had played extremely well in Australia and in Hamburg recently, and frankly, it is difficult to explain the sudden loss of form of our players,” he said.
Indian skipper Dhanraj Pillay, who has not been in the best of form, said: “Whenever we play Pakistan, we give our 100 per cent. It will be our last league match tomorrow and I can assure you that we will play good hockey.”
The Indians need to pick themselves up to even match the Pakistanis who have been having a fairly decent outing so far. They have looked sharper, more positive and far more pacy than the Indians, and appear primed for the match.
Pakistan coach Tahir Zaman attributed the recent defeats in Australia, during the double-leg meet, to the absence of several key players who were away in Germany playing the national league.
“We now have a balanced team now that players like Sohail Abbas (full-back and penalty corner specialist) back in the side. We hope to do well against the Indians,” he said.
The Pakistanis will be relying on their forward line to deliver. Their attacks have been swift and decisive, and of course, at the finish, they have not wasted as many chances as the Indians.
Under the circumstances, the Indian deep defence will have its work cut out, and especially the midfield that would need to control the pace and movements. But then, Rajinder has not exactly spoken of his midfielders in glowing terms and conceded that it has caused him a great deal of worry.
The weak link in the Pakistan team, as pointed out by the legendary Shahbaz Ahmed, has been their deep defence. However, given the form that the Indian forwards have shown in this vital department, Abbas and company would not be unduly worried about the Indian attacks.
Nevertheless, experience has shown that in an India vs Pakistan game, it is more about nerves that would be on knife-edge than just skill and strategy. Zaman readily conceded this point and said that the ability to withstand the pressure would be the key to the outcome of the game.
For sure, both teams would be going flat out as national pride would take precedence over everything else.
On current form, the Pakistanis look the better-equipped side, but then, the Indians have been known to write their own script that contains some wonderful surprises. (PTI)