I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to speak to you through my columns for the World Cup and communicate my passion and love for hockey to the people of India, who have been my pillar of strength during my playing years as well.
The Olympics and World Cup are two of the most prestigious events that we players look forward to in our career. Lets forget the past and keep our fingers crossed and believe that Team India will make history.
For me, this team is very united and in high spirits, which will come through against Pakistan on Sunday. The support of the home fans should also be an added boost for them to perform well against their archrivals. I remember every time I played on home soil and the head told the legs that they were tired, the cheering voices from the crowd helped the heart carry the legs to their destination.
What an opener we have in playing Pakistan, which will bring out the best from both teams. The whole nation will expect to see Asian style of hockey at its best with continuous end-to-end attacking play.
India have the players to win this match but the boys need to maintain a cool head as the tendency and temptation to over-dribble and “entertain” the crowd will be there. Structure in defence must also be maintained. It is important to play total hockey with discipline. We may have difficulty defending our fort, if we lose discipline and concentration at the back, especially during counterattacks.
We also should not concede needless penalty corners as they have a dreaded drag flicker in Sohail Abbas. I am sure the coaches will have their own gameplan but what I am saying comes from my own experience of playing against Pakistan.
I have had discussions with the Indian players the boys seemed confident after winning friendly matches against Argentina and Holland. Against Pakistan, it is importantto get the opening goal. I am sure our forward line is capable of enforcing at least 6 to 7 PCs, which is our strong point because of Sandeep Singh.
I expect coach Jose Brasa to adopt an attacking formation, like say 4-4-2-1, because we are going to play Asian style hockey from end-to-end.
At times Sardara Singh should use his deceptive long passes to create openings for our forwards. Pakistan has a strong team with Wasim Ahmed anchoring the half line. His game sense and deceptive passing has to be kept under a leash. Rehan Butt, the great opportunist, has to be tightly marked.
Let us take one game at a time. All I would like to convey to Team India is that it is important to keep their mind on the game for the full 70 minutes. The forwards should do their defensive duties as well. We have to capitalize on every penalty corner earned.
Good luck to Team India from 1 billion Indians.