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Hockey World League Semi-Final: Pakistan hockey team looks up to cricketers for inspiration

Pakistan will clash with Argentina in the Hockey World League semifinal. A defeat will ruin their chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup hockey.

other sports Updated: Jun 21, 2017 23:01 IST
Soumitra Bose
Shahbaz Ahmed believes Pakistan’s success in the ICC Champions Trophy against all odds is a good way to motivate the Pakistan hockey team.
Shahbaz Ahmed believes Pakistan’s success in the ICC Champions Trophy against all odds is a good way to motivate the Pakistan hockey team. (HT Photo)

On another scorching day in London, ahead of their quarterfinal clash against Argentina in the Hockey World League semifinal, Pakistan broke a lot of sweat at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Wednesday afternoon.

On Thursday, Pakistan must beat Argentina to be among the top five teams in London and qualify for the World Cup in India in 2018. On current form, Pakistan will start as rank outsiders versus Argentina but cricket is giving them renewed hope.

The success of the national cricket team in the ICC Champions Trophy is now being used as a model to boost the hockey players. “Nothing is impossible” is the new mantra in the Pakistan hockey camp as the cricket team’s stunning resurgence in the ICC Champions Trophy is part of a mental drill the backroom staff is now adopting.

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Pakistan smashed defending champions and hot favourites India by 180 runs at The Oval on Sunday to win their maiden Champions Trophy. Coming into the tournament as the lowest ranked side, Pakistan’s chances of a knockout berth received a massive setback when India hammered them by 124 runs in their first group match in Birmingham on June 4.

But Pakistan took that defeat in their stride, played good cricket and upset fancied England with consummate ease to set up a final against a marauding Indian team.

Pakistan left India in their wake in the Champions Trophy final, underlying their natural skills and belief that they could turn over any side on their day. The Pakistan hockey, in the middle of a poor Hockey World League semifinal, wants to do an encore.

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“Yes, the cricket team is now a role model for the hockey players. Their exploits are being showcased to the hockey team and you never know what result it could produce,” said Pakistan Hockey Federation secretary-general Shahbaz Ahmed.

Former World Cup and Olympic champions Pakistan have fallen on bad times in hockey. They did not play in the Rio Olympics 2016 and haven’t played in a World Cup since 2010 in Delhi.

Pakistan were lucky to qualify for the knockout rounds of the Hockey World League semifinal here. Canada did the green shirts a favour when they held Scotland to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday. Pakistan qualified as the fourth team from group B with just one win against the lowly Scots and three big defeats.

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Pakistan lost to India 7-1, went down to The Netherlands 4-1 but the 6-0 rout in the hands of Canada was tragic.

“We just don’t know what hockey to play ... our simple hockey is useless,” lamented Shahbaz, hinting that the players were low on “intellect” and “stamina”.

The odds will be stacked heavily against 13th-ranked Pakistan when they step out on Thursday against world No. 1 Argentina. If Pakistan can stage an upset, cricket can take some credit