CWG: Stakes high for hosts as India take on Pak in hockey match
India will have to play much better than what they did against Australia to beat Pakistan for a place in the semi-finals.When India and Pakistan clash in the men’s hockey competition of the Commonwealth Games on Sunday, there will be more at stake than just a spot in the semi-finals of the event. The erstwhile powerhouses of the game are pale shadows of their illustrious past and Australia and various European teams seemed to have left them far behind.The eight Olympic gold medals and a World Cup title India has won seem fables as do the three Olympic and four world titles of Pakistan.Never was this more evident than at the World Cup at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium earlier this year. The conditions were said to favour the Asian teams but India finished eighth while Pakistan finished 12th, at the bottom. ‘India, however, had the consolation of beating Pakistan 4-1 on the opening night of the tournament. Sandeep Singh converted two penalty corners while Shivendra Singh and Prabhjot Singh added to the score in that match.The result was hailed as revenge for the 7-1 drubbing Pakistan had given India in the final of the 1982 Asian Games at the same stadium. Pakistan, too, would not have forgotten that result. They will be out to seek redemption. After the World Cup debacle, the Pakistan team had retired en masse, but most are back in India. Famous players such as drag-flicker Sohail Abbas and goalkeeper Salman Akbar, though, are absent. The team also has a new coach in Dutchman Michel van den Heuvel.advertisementIndia, too, has a new coach, but its coaching staff and the playing squad, barring a few changes, are the same. Neither team figures at the top of world hockey anymore, but that does not affect the passion and enthusiasm of the supporters. Tickets for the match are already sold out.Pakistan has an edge over India in terms of statistics but India will bank on crowd support to beat them again.There is not much that either team management can do to catch the other off guard. While India seem to have made little improvement since the World Cup, Pakistan may have left the fiasco behind.After struggling to beat Malaysia in the opener, India were shown their place by a 2-5 defeat against Australia. A 4-0 win over Scotland on Saturday put the Indians in the right frame of mind ahead of the match against Pakistan, who notched up two comprehensive wins over Scotland and Malaysia and went down by only one goal to the Aussies.Pakistan will be wary of Sandeep’s drag-flicks and Shivendra’s runs. India, in turn, will have to watch out for Rehan Butt, Shakeel Abbasi.In the end, India will have to beat Pakistan if they have to reach the semi-finals on home soil. The India women’s team meanwhile beat South Africa 3-1 but crashed out of the tournament on goal difference.