On paper, it’s more of a mismatch, given the current status of the teams. But an India-Pakistan encounter, in any field of sport, often defies predictions and goes beyond measurable parameters due to the sentiments attached to it.
So when the Indian hockey team takes on Pakistan in their last round-robin league match of the Asian Champions Trophy on Wednesday, it wouldn’t be wrong to expect a high-voltage clash of eternal rivals. So what if India are ranked fourth in the world and Pakistan are just 16th, or the fact that India have three wins to show so far compared to just one from their rivals?
But for the competition to rise in standard, Pakistan will surely have to raise their level of hockey, which so far has been quite ordinary. Muhammad Saqlain, Pakistan’s stand-in coach, has claimed that they are aware of India’s weaknesses. But to back it up, they will have to be sharper on the field. Pakistan have so far scored just seven goals while conceding eight. India’s numbers — 16 goals scored, 5 conceded — highlight the difference in the quality of the two sides.
Speaking of goals, India would like to improve their conversion rate from penalty corners and also defend better. “We still need to work defensively and not give away silly penalty corners. We need to tackle better inside and do most of the tackling outside the box,” captain Harmanpreet Singh said.
India have already qualified for the semis. Pakistan would need to win on Wednesday to keep alive their chances. India are atop the table with 10 points, followed by Malaysia (9 points), South Korea (5), Pakistan (5), Japan (2) and China (1).
The India men’s hockey team has been clubbed alongside Pakistan and will play the big-ticket match on September 30 in the Asian Games, while the women’s side has South Korea and Malaysia among others in their pool.
Besides India and Pakistan, the men’s Group A has Japan, Bangladesh, Singapore and Uzbekistan.
With inputs from PTI