Hockey fans, as soon as the Asian Champions Trophy fixtures were out, marked October 23 on their calendar, as one of the biggest matches in international hockey – India vs Pakistan – was scheduled to be played. The day has arrived with two arch-rivals set to battle it out in the massive encounter on Sunday at Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan, Malaysia.
India were brilliant in their opening game of the competition against Japan, with Rupinder Pal Singh scoring six goals to help his team win 10-2. But India could not continue their impressive work against South Korea as the match ended 1-1.
Pakistan, on the other hand, might have lost to Malaysia in their opening encounter, but the Men in Green showed some strong character to defeat South Korea 1-0. With India and Pakistan placed in second and third place respectively in the Asian Champions Trophy standings, this match holds utmost importance, as the team, which emerged victorious can climb up the table.
On paper, India look a strong team, with plenty of experienced players in their squad. In such clashes, experience will come handy. But, Pakistan, who have not had great international exposure of late, has a number of young players, which India will be keen to exploit.
"The inexperience is what we have to tackle. We have just had one international tournament in one year. After the World League Semifinals in Antwerp last year, the Pakistan team's only outing was the Sutan Azlan Shah Cup, where we played seven matches." Press Trust of India quoted Pakistan coach Khawaja Junaid as saying.
Despite the lack of experience, Pakistan cannot be taken lightly, they are a class act, and always have it in them to defeat any team in the competition. Pakistan will depend on players like Muhammad Aleem Bilal, who has the knack of converting penalty corners.
Talking about specialists, India's Rupinder, who has already been on hot-form from his drag-flick, will be another player eyeing goals from penalty corners. Both teams will not want to concede any penalty corners, hence field goals could be of great importance to both teams.
India have plenty of skilled players in all departments of the game, with stars like Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh keen to use their skills and penetrate Pakistan's defence. India, even before the tournament started, were deemed favourites for the title, and this match against Pakistan is going to be their litmus test on Sunday.
If they manage to defeat Pakistan, India's confidence will be sky high, and further enhance their favourites tag as well.
Where to watch live
India vs Pakistan Men's Asian Champions Trophy 2016 match is scheduled for 4pm IST ( 3.30pm PKT, 6.30pm local time, 11.30am BST, 6.30am ET) start.
India: TV: Star Sports 4/HD. Live streaming: Hotstar.
Pakistan: TV: PTV
UK:TV: BT Sport ESPN