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Hockey World League: India, Pakistan game in London adds fuel to sporting rivalry

It’s not just cricket where India will take on Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy final but the arch-rivals will also face-off in another battleground, at the FIH Hockey World League semi-finals on Sunday in London.

other sports Updated: Jun 17, 2017 22:40 IST
The Indian Men’s Hockey Team will take on Pakistan in the Hockey World League semi-final on Sunday in London.
The Indian Men’s Hockey Team will take on Pakistan in the Hockey World League semi-final on Sunday in London. (Getty Images)

Will Sunday’s India-Pakistan contest in the FIH Hockey World League Semi-Final match the hype, hoopla and anticipation associated with the ICC Champions Trophy final between the two countries at The Oval, a few miles away, in London? Probably for the first time in their history, the neighbours are facing each other for the first time in two popular sports in the same city on the same day and a comparison seems apt.

(Read | India calm, Pakistan excited for ICC Champions Trophy 2017 final)

Rarely have there been dull moments in the field when the two neighbours have clashed and hockey fans eagerly await such encounters as they can watch some good individual skills in a hard-fought encounter with both teams refusing to give an inch. Usually played in front of big crowds comprising members of the diaspora from both countries, these encounters are livewire affairs with the excitement at times brimming over and things turning ugly on the field and outside.

(Read | India maintain unbeaten run, beat Canada 3-0 in Hockey World League Semi-Final)

Dip in standard

However, Sunday’s clash at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park may not live up to the memorable contests of yore because of the falling standard of hockey in Pakistan.

While the ICC Champions Trophy final is projected to be a needle contest after Pakistan bounced back to reach the summit clash after an embarrassing 124-run defeat against their arch-rivals in their opening encounter, the Green Brigade in hockey is currently shell-shocked following a 0-6 walloping at the hands of Canada on Friday. Pakistan had lost their opening match in the Hockey World League Semi-Final 0-4 to Netherlands while India had defeated Scotland 4-1.

(Read | India rally to beat Scotland 4-1 in Hockey World League Semi-Finals)

Pakistan’s hockey fortunes have been in the doldrums for the last few years due to lack of government support and enough competitive matches as foreign teams have been reluctant to visit the country due to security fears.

Contrasting fortunes

While Pakistan have slipped in the FIH rankings and languish at 13th, India have risen in the same period and are now perched at sixth. They have had some good results too, winning gold in the Asian Champions Trophy and bronze in the FIH Hockey World League and the Champions Trophy.

(Read | VR Raghunath, Devinder Walmiki help PSPB reach national hockey semis)

India also have a settled and experienced squad while Pakistan are in the build-up phase for the next year’s World Cup after they missed the Rio Olympics. The Green Shirts recently toured Australia and New Zealand and had a couple of good results. But that seems to have had little impact on the team going by their dismal show in the first two matches in London.

All said and done, the two teams are known to punch above their weight when playing against each. So, expect a good contest if Pakistan players manage to pull themselves up on Sunday. India will be the favourites despite the absence of some senior players.