New Delhi: Pakistan captain Zeeshan Ashraf and mercurial striker Rehan Butt may be itching to avenge the recent defeats against arch-rivals India at the upcoming Asian Games, but world’s greatest drag-flicker Sohail Abbas feels that it will not be easy to beat arch rival in Guangzhou as Rajpal Singh and Co are far better team now.
“India have performed tremendously well in the recently concluded Commonwealth Games. Just because the Indians played at home doesn’t mean that one can take away the sheen from their achievement. They will be the toughest team to beat in the Asian Games and we will have to perform to the best of our abilities,” comeback man Abbas told reporters from Islamabad where national team probables are preparing for the Games.
Abbas was shown the door after the miserable performance in Delhi World Cup this year where Pakistan had finished last. He was recalled for the camp after team could not win any medal in recently concluded CWG. India thrashed Pakistan in the league phase of both the tournaments.
Accusing Indian spectators for insulting Pakistani team Zeeshan and Butt had vowed to take revenge at the Asian Games. Sohail although opined that the much hyped encounter on 20th November will be the toughest one.
“Our encounter against India will be the toughest outing. This Indian team is not the one we beat in Salta. This team plays aggressive hockey and are moving on the right direction,” said the veteran full-back.
Lauding India’s performance at the CWG, Sohail stated that that Indian team did the basics right in all the matches except the final against Australia.
“India availed the chances which Pakistan could not. They are showing a lot of consistency. Retaining the same coach (Jose Brasa) has also benefited them,” he said.
He also predicted tougher competition in Asian Games this time as China and Japan are also very well prepared.
“Not only India but China and Japan are also well prepared with an eye on the London Olympic. I don’t have to say anything about Korea. Each and every match will be important in the tournament,” said Sohail.
When asked about the additional pressure during Indo- Pak matches, the experienced player admitted that sometimes there is negative pressure.
“People across the border don’t want to see their team lose. Sometimes, it creates negative pressure hence players forget the gameplan and start playing different type of hockey.”
He also welcomed the proposed Indo- Pak Test series which according to him reduce tension and hype surrounding the matches between them.
“It is necessary to play each other on regular basis. It will reduce hype and tension during the matches. Nonetheless every team is playing similar hockey now. We are playing a mix of European and Asian Hockey since we have European coaches,” he concluded.