Hockey Perspectives

How ‘Competitive Quotient’ in India-Pakistan Matches Has Diluted Over the Years

The kind of hype and hoopla India-Pakistan hockey matches generate is something most other teams would struggle to match. We know there is a bit of Trans-Tasman rivalry between Australia and New Zealand – we are aware of the rivalry between two European nations Netherlands and Belgium but not of the magnitude of India-Pakistan encounters.

India-Pakistan meet-ups have always captured the public eyeballs. But has the cut-throat rivalry between the two teams lost some of its competitive edge over the last four-five years? From the statistical perspective it appears that although excitement among spectators reaches fever pitch every time an India-Pakistan clash looms large, the on-pitch reality is that the yawning quality gap between the two teams can clearly be visible in the India-Pakistan match in the 6th Men’s Asian Champions Trophy being played at the Maulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium in Dhaka.

Pakistan deserves a pat on their backs for the manner in which they strained every nerve and put up a brave defensive structure against the Olympic bronze medallist – in fact, the final 3-1 scoreline does not quite reflect the resistance put forth by the Greenshirts. Had they exuded more firepower upfront, the match could have gone right down to the wire.

Pakistan have not been regularly featuring in international tourneys in recent times – their last major tournament participation was the 2018 World Cup in India. Interestingly, the last time India played Pakistan in an international match was nearly three years back in the 2018 Asian Champions Trophy at Muscat, where India won by another 3-1 margin – of course, both teams were slated to meet again in the final of the 2018 Asian Champions Trophy but the final was abandoned owing to heavy rain and both teams were declared Joint Winners.

Prior to that India had beaten Pakistan 2-1 in the bronze medal play-off tie at the 2018 Asian Games at Jakarta. At the 2018 Champions Trophy at Breda, India had coasted past Pakistan 4-0. Barring a 2-2 draw in the 2018 Commonwealth Games at Glasgow, Pakistan have struggled to stay competitive when up against India. At the 2017 Asia Cup in Dhaka, India eased past their traditional rivals 3-1 in the league stage and 4-0 in the Super 4S classification phase.

The 2017 Men’s FIH Hockey World League Semifinal Round in London saw Pakistan being treated as a lesser-known hockey nation as India swamped them first 7-1 in a pool tie and subsequently routed them 6-1 in the crossover stage. The competitive ‘quotient’ missing from India-Pakistan encounters is there for all to see. India have not lost to Pakistan in their last nine encounters – the Greenshirts had last defeated India 1-0 in the final of the 2016 SAF Games at Guwahati – a tourney where they had pipped the same opponents 2-1 in the pool stage.

Pakistan’s resolute performance against a much-superior Indian side surely gives us hope that they can pack more ammunition under recently-roped-in Dutch coach Siegfried Aikman and give top hockey sides a run for their money.

India-Pakistan Encounters

2018 Asian Champions TrophyIndia Won 3-1
2018 Asian Games (Bronze Medal Play-Off)India Won 2-1
2018 Champions TrophyIndia Won 4-0
2018 Commonwealth GamesIndia Drew 2-2
2017 Asia CupIndia Won 3-1
2017 Asia Cup (Super 4S)India Won 4-0
2017 Hockey World League Semifinal RoundIndia Won 7-1
2017 Hockey World League Semifinal Round (Crossover)India Won 6-1
2016 Sultan Azlan Shah CupIndia Won 5-1
2016 SAF GamesPakistan Won 1-0
2016 SAF Games (Final)Pakistan Won 2-1