New Delhi: Traditional rivals India and Pakistan are best-suited for hockey`s new nine-a-side format, Hockey 9`s which will make its debut with the LANCO International Super Series in Perth from October 20-23, said it`s mastermind Ric Charlesworth.
With a view to revolutionise hockey and make it more free-flowing and viewer-friendly, Charlesworth, Australian men`s team coach, had conceptulised the nine-a-side format which will played under new rules to ensure fast-paced hockey.
Even though fitness will be key to a team`s success in this format, Charlesworth was of the view that India and Pakistan will have an edge over other teams in the upcoming four-nation tournament.
"These rules are made for India and Pakistan in my view. Most of us in Australia, love the way India and Pakistan traditionally play the game. We learnt most of our hockey from what we saw in the sub-continent," Charlesworth said in a video message during the launch of the nine-a-side tournament here on Tuesday.
"The Indian players have fluency, speed, terrific skills and play an attacking style of hockey."
The tournament will feature hosts Australia, India, Pakistan and New Zealand in the men`s category, while India, Australia and Malaysia will fight it out in the women`s section for top honours.
Chareslworth was of the view that the nine-a-side format will revolutionise hockey and give the game a completely new dimension.
"Hockey has developed significantly in the past couple of years. The game has become much faster and fluent with more spaces opening up and more opportunity to attack and more goals," he observed.
"Just as in the 70`s when Kerry Packer revolutionized cricket and the game evolved, this (nine-a-side format) is an opportunity to experiment with the rules of hockey," added former technical director of the Indian hockey team.
Just like Charlesworth, Indian women`s team coach C R Kumar too viewed that Indian and Pakistani players are better equipped to succeed in the new format.
"India and Pakistan have better chance because they have better skill and finishing abilities," he said.
Kumar, however, was realistic about his wards chances in the upcoming tournament.
"It will be really tough for the Indian girls because we are still learning. Though we have enough skills it takes a lot of energy in such a format. A best a player can play for five minutes continuously," he said.
"We have worked more on our fitness but we also need to concentrate on skill. We will try to give our best but our priority remains the four-Test series against Australia before the nine-a-side event," the coach added.
Kumar said that the new format can also make or break a goalkeeper`s career.
"It would be tough for the goalkeepers to adjust to biggers goals. A goalkeeper has to have agility, reaction and sound decision-making power. If you commit first you are finish but you also can become a hero in 15 minutes," he said.
As per the new rules of the format, a team will consist of nine players as against the usual 11 and there will be 15 minutes per half as compared to 35 minutes halves.
There will also be bigger goals (1 metre wider), unlimited substitutions, one player from each team will be required to stay in the opposition half to create more space, one-on-one penalty shoot out where the striker is allowed only eight seconds to score.
The ground rules has also been relaxed to encourage continuous play. The format allows only two defenders besides the goalkeeper to stop penalty corners.