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India look to stem the rot

August 17, 2005 19:20 IST

Having been pushed out of medal contention, an insipid India will desperately look to break the agonising sequence of debacles when they clash with archrivals Pakistan in the Rabo Trophy hockey tournament in Amstelveen, on Thursday.

India have already lost both their games in the tournament to European powerhouse Spain and world champions Germany and would now play classification matches for the 5-8 places in this eight-nation tournament.

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Their body language so far has suggested that there is something grossly wrong somewhere. Most senior players look stale and jaded and there seems to be no motivation for the sparks to fly.

The players need to get out of their shackles and be given the feeling of self belief by the team management before the match against Pakistan who played a goalless draw with Spain yesterday.

Even though India are not in contention for the top slots, a win over Pakistan could put them in the third place of their pool.

India's coach Rajinder Singh Jr has expressed his displeasure at the showing of his senior players here. He is not the only one, as many of their Dutch fans here feel that perhaps the Rotterdam Junior World Cup squad may have given a better account.

Pakistan coach Asif Bajwa is all fired up after the draw against Spain and is exuding dollops of confidence, saying "we will win tomorrow".

Pakistan possess a couple of world class strikers in Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi. The forwards, coupled with sturdy midfielders like skipper Mohammad Saqlain and Ghazanfar Ali, are capable of ripping open any defence.

Also goalkeeper Salman Akbar appears to be on the way to join the world's best, the spectacular saves against Spain yesterday bearing testimony to the fact.

A do or die effort has to come from India with a coordinated and combined display of aggression by their forwards Deepak Thakur, Prabhjot Singh, Gagan Ajit Singh and Rajpal Singh. The midfielders, particularly Bimal Lakra and Viren Rasquinha, also need to put in something extra to make up for the deficiencies of Prabhdeep Singh and Davinder Pal.

Skipper Dilip Tirkey must find his rhythm and flow if the Indians are to keep their heads high, at least for the moment.


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