Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: India face arch-rivals Pakistan in a must-win match
Ipoh: India will have to put behind the disappointment of their back-to-back defeats and come out all guns blazing against arch-rivals Pakistan in their next round-robin match on Tuesday, to keep their chances alive in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here.
India, however, could take heart from the fact that both their previous ties were close encounters.
A young Indian side had put up a spirited fight before going down 3-4 to six-time champions Australia in their opening encounter, while a defensive lapse towards the end in the second match cost them dear as they went down 1-2 to South Korea.
Pakistan, on the other hand, opened their campaign with a 3-4 win against New Zealand before being crushed 0-6 by Australia last night.
India, after their impressive show against the Aussies, were expected to do well but they were completely outplayed in the first half yesterday by the Koreans, who took a 1-0 lead.
The Indians, however regrouped themselves in the second session and found the equaliser from one of their numerous raids into the rival citadel.
But a lapse in concentration in the dying minutes of the game enabled Korea to score the all-important winner.
After suffering two consecutive defeats, the onus now would be on India to quickly fix their grey areas before Tuesday’sdo-or-die battle.
Even though India`s chief coach Michael admitted the pressure would be immense on his wards against Pakistan tomorrow, he said the players have been advised to take the match "as just another one".
"The players are aware that they have to be consistent and the advice is to take the match against Pakistan as just another one. The team is young and a little raw and the nerve factor could possibly separate the winner," said Nobbs.
He said the performances of Mandeep Singh and the fast improving Malak Singh has lifted the team`s spirits.
Stating that it pays to play to one`s strength rather than dwelling on the opponents` weaknesses, the Australian said one area of concern for India is the shortage of good goalkeepers.
"PR Sreejesh is good but nothing is in the reserve. The request has been made to Hockey India to conduct goalkeepers clinic and possibly induct a foreign specialised coach only for goalkeeping," he said.
Talking about drag-flick specialist Rupinder Pal Singh`s inconsistent performance in the tournament so far, Nobbs said the youngster has been taking extra load.
"Gurjinder (Singh) is on the learning process but has the potential to lend support to Rupinder. He is not fully fit but has been brought to gain valuable international experience."
Pakistan coach Akthar Rasool, meanwhile, said that with four new kids in his ranks, pressure could play a big role on Tuesday.
"Modern hockey is all about speed, tactics and the ability to come good on the big day irrespective of the opposition. Going by the recent trend, the contests between India and Pakistan have been too close and the results pretty even," Rasool said.
"We will play it hard not just for the win over India but in preparation for the sterner battles ahead in a tight packed calendar," he said.