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Friendship series resumes
04 Oct 2004 09:34

India's Vikram Pillay and Pakistan's Mudassar Ali Khan
© Dr. W. Sternberger

Hockey memories, some pleasant and some bitter, enhance the expectations as India and Pakistan resume the Dosti Series 2004 at the historic Dhyan Chand National Stadium here on Monday.

In spite of several reversals against its archrival an India-Pakistan match, especially a win for India, warms the hearts of the die-hard fans.

Two stalwarts of world hockey _ Akhtar Rasool and Samiullah _ make no effort to hide their delight as they return to the venues they dominated decades ago with their lethal skills. Accompanying the Pakistan team on the Indian Hockey Federation's invitation, these veterans reiterated their appeal to have more exchanges between the two Asian giants to arrest their slide in international competitions.

Their dominance in world hockey long eroded by the robust Europeans, it is sad that India and Pakistan, languishing in the bottom half, have engaged foreign coaches, a step that does not find favour with most veterans on either side of the border.

The current series is aimed at testing the talent available with an eye on the future. The two camps maintain that "results do not matter". This makes the contest an exciting proposition for the spectators, who would be too happy to sit back and enjoy the quality fare.

"The boys have played outstanding hockey," remarked Sohail Abbas, the scourge of the Indians with his devastating penalty-corner conversions. He leads a pack that is known to improve with every outing.

"We're following a plan. The team's morale was down after the Athens Olympics but the boys have done exceedingly well (against Pakistan). They're learning to adapt," emphasised Dilip Tirkey, the rock that marks the Indian defence.

The four-match leg in Pakistan ended 2-1 in favour of the home team after the Indians frittered away a 4-2 advantage in the last match. The result counted a lot amidst whispers that the series was contrived to keep alive the friendship factor. "Silly," was how Abbas reacted. "Thank God we drew the last match," he said with a smile.

Incidentally, Abbas is three goals away from breaking legendary Dutch defender Paul Litjens' world record of 267 goals. "It'll be great if I can achieve the distinction tomorrow," gushed the soft-spoken Pakistan star.

The hockey exhibition will be on view at four venues in India with emphasis on intense competition. The respect for each other's potential is genuine. "The support (from spectators) was great," said Tirkey referring to his experience in Pakistan.

Can the Pakistanis charm the Indian audience the way Rasool and Samiullah did? The citizens of Quetta waving the Indian National Flag was an unbelievable sight. "It is our turn to reciprocate the hospitality," is the refrain from the Indian camp.

The teams (from): India: Hari Prasad, Sandeep Michael, Devesh Chauhan, Adrian D'Souza, Adam Sinclair, William Xalxo, Ignace Tirkey, Harpal Singh, Sdandeep Singh, Girish Pimpale, Dilip Tirkey, Viren Rasquinha, Tushar Khandekar, Vivek Gupta, V.S. Vinay, Arjun Halappa, Vikram Pillay and Prabhod Tirkey.

Pakistan: Wasim Ahmed, Sohail Abbas, Rehan Butt, Shakeel Abbasi, Zeeshan Ashraf, Tariq Aziz, Akhtar Ali, Nasir Ahmed, Imran Khan, Abdul Asim Khan, Adnan Zakir, Ghazafar Ali, Kashif Jawad, Adnan Masood, Muddasar, Salman Akbar, Mohammad Imran and Dilawar Hussain.

Umpires: Messrs Amarjit Singh and Virender Bahadur.


Article courtesy The Hindu

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