The scorelines of their last 10 meetings: 3-2. 3-2. 7-1. 6-1. 3-1. 4-0. 2-2. 4-0. 2-1. 3-1. It’s safe to say that the Indian hockey team has not just dominated Pakistan but has completely eviscerated its rival in recent meetings. Since their meeting at the group stage of the Asian Champions Trophy in 2016, the Men in Blue have emerged victorious nine out of 10 times, the aggregate score: 37-11.
India-Pakistan matches in men’s hockey had a gravitas that was lacking in many other international matches. But these days, that passion is missing as the result seems to be a foregone conclusion. Even when India hit its nadir—as it did at the World League Semifinals in London in 2017—it had no problems beating Pakistan 7-1 and 6-1. The same narrative played itself out at the ongoing Asian Champions Trophy in Muscat. In a group game between these two rivals—only by history and nothing more these days—India was comfortably the better team. Ditto in cricket too.
Even though Pakistan scored the opener, there was no danger for skipper Manpreet Singh and Co. and they walked out dominant winners on Saturday. In the past, that would have been unthinkable. Pakistan, which won four of the first eight World Cups, had India’s number and there was passion whenever they played India. These days, it has been replaced by apathy and a sign of resignation.
Moving away from the romance of India-Pakistan encounters, the ongoing tournament in Oman is an important one for coach Harendra Singh’s charges. Considering the team’s recent below-par performances—fourth at the Commonwealth Games and bronze at the Asian Games—a win here will act as the perfect morale booster ahead of the World Cup later this year in Bhubaneswar.
Sure, the Indian team is streets ahead of everyone else in Asia but results in big tournaments haven’t exactly conveyed that this year. The best example is the Asian Games, where despite being outright favourites, it managed only a bronze. Perhaps, it is time to set the record straight.