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Hockey team hoping to level Pakistan series
September 30, 2004 17:10 IST
India go into the decider of the four-Test hockey series against archrivals Pakistan in Lahore on Friday determined to restore parity and leave for the return leg at home with heads high.
It has been a roller-coaster series with Pakistan taking a lead before being stunned by a largely inexperienced Indian side in the second match at Quetta.
The Indians did well to fight back after being down by two goals in the third tie at Peshawar on Wednesday before the irrepressible Sohail Abbas slammed home the match winner to fetch a narrow 3-2 victory for the home team.
The two teams are to play a return four-Test series in India, starting on October 4 in New Delhi.
It is vital that India continues their spirited display, as a reverse in the Lahore match could certainly have a bearing on the team's performance before the home crowd.
Although Pakistan enjoy a 2-1 lead in the series, they will hardly be breathing easy as the Indians have performed better than expected, even with a side missing stalwarts like Dhanraj Pillay and Baljit Singh Dhillon.
Pakistan coach Roelant Oltmans admitted as much when he said his team would have to be wary of the Indians.
"I am pleased that the boys played all the way to get a good result, but we needed to have more possession," he said referring to yesterday's match.
Praising the Indians for their fine play, Oltmans said, "if this team continues to play like this, I am sure they are going to be back in the 2006 World Cup."
The Indians came into the series on the back of a disastrous outing in the Athens Olympic Games, where they finished a dismal seventh, and little was expected of them against a strong Pakistani side, also having the advantage of playing on home ground before partisan crowds.
Although India have not been outstanding, their performance has not been disheartening either. Young penalty-corner expert Sandeep Singh exorcised the ghosts of the Olympics with some fine performances in the earlier matches although he disappointed in the Peshawar match.
In fact, exploiting short corners continue to be the weak link for India. They earned four corners in all in yesterday's game but could not convert any of those.
Also, the forward line needs to put up a better show tomorrow. The forwards have been struggling but that could be put down to their inexperience and the responsibility of filling in the shoes of the likes of Gagan Ajit Singh, Prabhjot Singh and Deepak Thakur.
On the other hand, the positives have been performances by skipper Dilip Tirkey who has been the usual solid self and Adrian D'Souza, who continued his good work of Athens to help the side, packed with as many as four rookies, make an impression.
Friday's match should be seen by the Indians as a great opportunity to give a final push to their efforts, and given the certain lack of cohesiveness in the rival ranks, the visitors could as well steal a win and level the series.
India's German coach Gerhard Rach said his side was not treated seriously when they arrived in Pakistan. "But now after we have put in some good performances, all that seems to be quickly changing."
He admitted that penalty-corner conversion is an area of concern but promised a much improved performance from the team in the series deciding Test.
India: Dilip Tirkey (capt), Devesh Chauhan, Adrian D'Souza, Harpal Singh, Sandeep Singh, William Xalxo, Viren Rasquinha, Vikram Pillay, Ignace Tirkey, V S Vinay, Prabodh Tirkey, Vivek Gupta, Adam Sinclair, Arjun Halappa, Sandeep Michael, Tushar Khandekar, Hari Prasad.
Pakistan: Waseem Ahmed (capt), Salman Akber, Nasir Ahmed, Sohail Abbas, Zeeshan Ashraf, Muhammad Imran, Imran Warsi, Ghazanfar Ali, Adnan Maqsood, Dilawar Hussain, Abdul Aasim
Khan, Imran Khan, Rehan Butt, Mudassar Ali Khan, Kashif Jawwad, Shakeel Abbasi, Adnan Zakir, Tariq Aziz, Shabbir Hussain and Akhtar Ali.