New Delhi: For long, India and Pakistan have been the power-houses of hockey. But the sub-continental domination has ceased to exist since the advent of fast-past and somehow physical hockey. Now, the world is witnessing teams from Australia, and European countries ruling the charts.
But still, a clash between these two teams is regarded as the clash of titans considering the rivalry, intensity and sheer artistry they carry into a game. Despite their slump in pecking order of world hockey, India and Pakistan still breathe the essence of classic pure hockey that many a purists long to see.
When India take on their fierce rivals Pakistan in the final of 17th Asian Games, it will once again mark a new era of sporting rivalry. For the record, this is their first final, head-to-head, in 32 long years. And this is the clash everyone is waiting for. Interestingly, in the 1990 Asiad, the hockey competition followed a round-robing format. And Pakistan won the gold medal thanks to their 12 points as against India's 10 from six matches each. In fact, Pakistan defeated India 3-2 in their final round-robin match too.
India have won the Asiad gold medal twice, but their record against Pakistan is somewhat livid. Pakistan are the defending champions and have won seven times against India's one in the head-to-head count. What made Pakistan a formidable rival in the Asian Games is, they have won it a record eighth time. An enviable record indeed. And both the sides are well aware that, besides the gold medal, what is also at stake is the direct qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
In such a situation, both the sides will need play their hearts out. History apart, it's winners take all match; title, legacy, et al. Specially for India, who are making their final appearance after a gap of 12 years, will be more than eager to take on the Pakistani side.
And both the sides look hungry, as evident in their respective semi-final matches. India fought hard to beat hosts South Korea 1-0 and kept alive their hopes for first Asian Games gold medal in 16 years. On the other hand, Pakistan survived a stern Malaysian tests to win 6-5 win in the penalty shoot-out.
Pakistan, who thrashed India 7-1 in New Delhi in 1982, to win their sixth and fourth successive title, all against India in the final, will start as favourites. Shahnaz Sheikh`s side also beat India in the group match.