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Tough for India to save series
Biswajyoti Brahma | October 07, 2004 19:58 IST
Down 1-3, India will have to raise their game in the penultimate match of the Friendship Hockey series in Amritsar on Friday to prevent Pakistan from running away with the title.
The holy city, which will be hosting an Indo-Pak Test for the first time, is expected to see a riveting contest of supremacy as nothing short of a win will help the cause of the teams.
A win for India, who have won one, drawn two and lost three matches, would give a boost to their chances of levelling the eight-match series, the last tie of which is to be played under floodlights in Hyderabad on Sunday.
Pakistan, who were hoping to wrap up the series in the previous match at Chandigarh itself, must be under enormous pressure as a patchy performance in that match denied them the title.
India must be considering themselves unlucky for not having scored the winner in the 1-1 draw in the Chandigarh game despite getting a number of opportunities. And now to have any chance of winning the match, they must improve their scoring abilities against a side that would also be keen to make amends for their sloppy display in the previous Test.
Captain Dilip Tirkey, who was hit on the wrist and face in the Indian leg opener in Delhi and missed the Chandigarh game, will once again have to watch the action from the sidelines, which would mean that the young defenders would have to burden the extra responsibility.
"We are feeling Dilip's absence, he is a class act. It's very hard to find a replacement for a player of his calibre," India's chief coach Gerhard Rach said.
The German-born coach was a trifle worried by the players' failure to convert chances, particularly the penalty corners, but more than the players he blamed a tight schedule for the misses.
"In Athens we had little time to prepare for penalty corners. Here also we have no time to practice. We are just playing and travelling without any break," Rach said.
"This is something which needs a lot of practising and it's not possible to improve without practice."
The Indians are trying to take the positives from yesterday's draw as barring the scoring lapses, they did reasonably well in other aspects of the game with Viren Rasquinha admirably leading the team in the absence of Tirkey.
Most of the players -- defenders, midfielders and forwards -- had a good game as they played as a cohesive unit rarely giving their opponents a chance to dominate the game.
"It was a good game and the team played with a lot of spirit. They must put in the same effort in the next match," Rasquinha said.
Pakistan, on the other hand, were looking to their forwards to go full throttle and secure a win for the side, playing a bilateral series with India after a gap of five years.
"The forwards did not play well in Chandigarh but we are looking for a better show tomorrow. A win would seal the fate of the series in our favour," Pakistani right-winger Rehan Butt said.
India: Viren Rasquinha, Devesh Chauhan, Adrian D'Souza, Harpal Singh, William Xalco, Sandeep Singh, Ignace Tirkey, Viren Rasquinha, Vikram Pillay, Prabodh Tirkey, V S Vinay, Vivek Gupta, Arjun Halappa, Hari Prasad, Adam Sinclair, Girish Pimpale, Sandeep Michael, Tushar Khandekar.
Pakistan: Wasim Ahmed (capt), Salman Akbar, Nasir Ahmad, Sohail Abbas, Kashif Jawad, Dilawar Hussain, Mudassar Ali Khan, Shakil Abbasi, Zeeshan Ashraf, Adnan Zakir, Adnan Masood, Tariq Aziz, Mohd Shabbir, Ghazanfar Ali, Imran Khan, Akhtar Ali, Mohd Imran.