India-Pak World Cup clash will be a battle of nerves
The World Cup clash between India and Pakistan on Sunday is as good as the final for hockey buffs in the subcontinent. A clash between sporting teams of the two countries is not just a test of skill. It is a war of nerves and it will not be any different when they fight it out under the hi-tech floodlights at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in New Delhi on Sunday.india Updated: Feb 27, 2010 13:44 IST
The World Cup clash between India and Pakistan on Sunday is as good as the final for hockey buffs in the subcontinent.
A clash between sporting teams of the two countries is not just a test of skill. It is a war of nerves and it will not be any different when they fight it out under the hi-tech floodlights at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium in New Delhi on Sunday with tens of millions of their countrymen watching them in the subcontinent and around the world.
The two nations, which ruled world hockey for years, are now shadows of their past, but they still evoke a lot of tension, excitement and suspense both on the field as well as in the overflowing galleries.
No nation has won the World Cup as many times as Pakistan - four times - while India's lone triumph came at Kuala Lumpur in 1975. The last time the World Cup was played in India, in Mumbai, Pakistan were the winners for the third time.
The organisers could not have asked for a better way to kick off the World Cup here than 17,000 specators filling the refurbished stadium on a pleasant spring night.
And both teams wanted it that way, to get it out of the way before taking the other important matches in pool 'B'. They realise a victory in the first match will not only act like an elixir but it will mentally take them go a long way for a semi-final spot.
The recent track record of the two teams gives Pakistan a definite edge, their staggering 6-3 victory in the Champions Challenge semi-final in Salta, Argentina, staring India in the face. The Indians know that Sunday is a different day and it is going to be a different ball game altogether playing at home.
Whatever the outcome of the match, the flair, artistry and that oreintal touch is bound to keep the spectators on the edge of their seats.
Frankly, for both the teams, the match between them may not be their toughest in a group where they have to contend with Australia, Spain, England and South Africa.
Pakistani coach Shahid Ali sees the encounter as a battle of nerves while his Indian counterpart Jose Brasa wants his wards to treat it as another game without putting undue pressure on themselves.
"Both the teams play more or less similar style of hockey and also the formation. It all boils down to handling pressure and which ever team holds its nerve carries the day," says Shahid.
Brasa, who has seen how the Indians got uptight in the Salta match, wants to keep it simple: "Don't give too much importance to the match," he told his players.
"At Salta, the players got excited on the field and played as if they wanted to finish the game in a jiffy, going on attack relentlessly. They should take it easy and play to a plan Sunday," the Spaniard said.
The Indian players seem to have understood Brasa's point and do not even want to talk about the match.
"We want to treat all group matches alike as we are in a tough group. We have chalked out plans against all our opponents, studying their strengths and weaknesses and that includes Pakistan. The only difference is we are playing Pakistan first and we would like to start on a winning note," says skipper Rajpal Singh.
Penalty-corner expert and world's top scorer Sohail Abbas will be the player India would be wary of as he has the ability to change the course of the game.
At least one India player is game for Sohail's tricks. Goalkeer Adrian d'souza knows exactly what Sohail will be up to and has tackled him successfully in their past encounters. Adrian, as a promising golakeeper, stood up to Abbas in 2004-05.
India would be counting on the expertise of their three drag-flickers, Sandeep Singh, Diwakar Ram and Dhananjay Mahadik. If the forwards can fetch them the penalty-corners they will come into play.
Prabhjot Singh and Deepak Thakur have all the experience upfront with Shivendra running in at centre. Arjun Halappa and Rajpal Singh are not far behind flitting in with timely interventions.
Tushar Khandekar, Vikram Pillay, Bharat Chikara, will take care of the midfield backed up by Sandeep, Diwakar, Mahadhik.
Coach Brasa has tried out several combinations since taking charge of the Indian team. He has made the midfield and forward line more free flowing with swift interchanging of positions. The players initially found it difficult to adjust, but have now accustomed to the Brasa's methods of play.
Pakistan have that clever distributor of ball, centre-half Wasem Ahmed who is going to play a crucial role. Add goalkeeper Salman Akbar and strikers Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abassi, they have enough experience tackle any eventuality.
Goalkeepers: Adrian D'souza, PR Sreejesh
Defenders: Sandeep Singh, Diwakar Ram, Dhananjay Mahadik
Mid fielders: Gurbaj Singh, Vikram Pillay, Arjun Halappa, Bharat Chikara, Danish Mustafa, Tushar Khandekar.
Forward: Deepak Thakur, Gurvinder Chandi, Rajpal Singh, Prabhjot Singh, Sarwanjit Singh, Arjun Halappa, Shivendra Singh.
Goalkeepers: Nasir Ahmad and Salman Akbar
Defenders: Zeeshan Ashraf, Sohail Abbas and Muhammad Rashid
Midfielders: Muhammad Irfan, Waseem Ahmad, Muhammad Imran, Fareed Ahmad and Sajjad Anwar
Forward: Rehan Butt, Shakeel Abbasi, Abdul Haseem Khan, Muhammad Zubair, Akhtar Ali, Omer Bhutta, Abbas Haider and Muhammad Rizwan