Pakistan's veteran singles player Aqeel Khan has admitted that growth of tennis in India is much better than his country but remained optimistic of upsetting the fancied neighbours in the upcoming Davis Cup tie in Islamabad.
Pakistan and India go head-to-head in a Davis Cup tie after 13 years. The last tie between the two nations was played in Mumbai in 2006, which India won 3-2.
An Indian tennis team will travel to Pakistan after 55 years. The last time they sparred on Pakistan soil was way back in March 1964 in Lahore, where India won 4-0.
"It is not going to be an easy passage for us to the World Group Qualifiers as India is way ahead of us in tennis with better facilities, more money, professionalism, and good talent," Aqeel said.
"India has progressed a lot in tennis and it is not the same for us, but I think with the experience Aisam and I have of playing together in the Davis Cup and our understanding as a doubles pair and plus the advantage of playing at home, we can cause an upset as a team," Aqeel said.
The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) has announced that Aisam will soon return to Islamabad and join the training camp for the tie.
Aisam, 39, is Pakistan's best-known player on the Pro circuit with 17 ATP doubles titles to his credit.
Aqeel who earlier this month won another national ranking event in Karachi said it was unfortunate young talent was not coming up.
"But I think when India comes here and we play the Davis Cup tie it will lift the profile of the sport in our country."
Aqeel said that India's decision to send its team to Pakistan for the Davis Cup didn't surprise him as the International Tennis Federation (ITF) had given clearance to host the tie.
"If they had refused to come to Islamabad, the ITF would have docked them (impose penalty) and also fined them heavily. It would have hurt them in the Davis Cup World Group so they had to come for the Davis Cup tie," he said.
Pak Hockey Federation says reviving bilateral ties with India top priority
The Pakistan Hockey Federation's newly-appointed Secretary General Asif Bajwa says reviving bilateral engagements with India is on top of his to-do list as that can lift PHF out of an ongoing financial crisis.
Bajwa, who took up the position only last month, said he is hopeful of succeeding in his efforts too even though he hasn't yet started work on it.
"It would be wrong to say I have had a chance to talk to anyone on the issue of bilateral hockey ties with India. But that is my main goal and I am very hopeful the ice will break soon between the two countries in hockey," he told PTI on Sunday at the Sattar Edhi hockey stadium in Karachi.
"The way I look at it, if we convince them to play, then it would give a big boost to hockey in Pakistan and also help us overcome our financial crunch," he added.
The last time India and Pakistan played a bilateral Test series was back in 2006. They have only been meeting at multi-lateral events ever since due to political tensions between the two neighbours.
Bajwa is believed to have good ties with top Indian sports administrator Narender Batra, who heads the Indian Olympic Association and the International Hockey Federation (FIH). Batra is also a former President of Hockey India.
The former Olympian said he would try to have talks with Batra soon on the possibility of having a bilateral series.
"If we can play like in the past on home and away basis perfect but we would also not rule out a neutral venue," he said.
Bajwa, who was PHF secretary general between 2008-13, said his focus is to make hockey a financially self-sufficient sport in the country.
"It is a great sign that we have managed to hold the National hockey championship after two years here...The way forward for us is to have at least eight to nine domestic events annually and also to eventually have our professional league hockey in the country with foreign players," he said.
Bajwa said Pakistan was in the process of paying a fine to the International Hockey Federation for not sending the team to the FIH Pro-Hockey League earlier this year.
"It was a mistake because the FIH Pro-Hockey League is the future of the sport and it will benefit us a lot. We still have a small window of opportunity available to us to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games but we have to wait and see what the FIH lines up for us," he said.
"But frankly speaking, I am already thinking ahead of preparing strong squads for the junior World Cup, senior World Cup, and the 2024 Olympic Games," he added.