India keen to maintain hold over Pak

Two-time champs need to continue their streak against arch-rivals to keep final hopes alive

Defending champions India’s hopes of completing a hat-trick of titles will hinge on winning the next two games, which now seems essential for advancing to the final after they squandered a two-goal lead to suffer a 2-3 defeat against South Korea in the opening outing.

India, who won the Azlan Shah Cup outright in 2009 and were joint champions with South Korea in 2010, go into Wednesday’s match with victories in the last four encounters against Pakistan.

After the reversal against South Korea, India have defeated top-placed Britain and hosts Malayisa, while the match against World champions Australia ended in a 1-1 draw.

Pakistan’s hopes have suffered a jolt despite twin victories as they lost to both Britain and Australia. “We hope to put up a good show, our team has improved with every outing as the youngsters have gained in confidence,” says chief coach Harendra Singh.

“These young players have done a wonderful job and their learning process has got a big boost through the experience here,” he said.

Harendra also said the Indian team was focusing on executing its own strategy, and are not unduly concerned about the opposition.

“We’re not treating the match against Pakistan any differently from the previous games,” said Harendra.

“I don’t think you can term any particular match as a special one. For us each and every encounter is of equal importance,” the coach added, trying to play down the hype that is always generated during an Indo-Pak clash.

Currently placed third in the round-robin league standings -- behind Britain (nine points from four matches) and Australia (seven points from three games) -- India need to win the two remaining games against Pakistan and New Zealand if they aspire for another appearance in the final.

India maintained an all-win record in last year’s four matches against Pakistan, and those included the preliminary league matches in the World Cup in New Delhi and the Guangzhou Asian Games.

In the Asian Games, India suffered a shock defeat against Malaysia in the semifinals, while Pakistan went on to reclaim the title after two decades. As always Harendra stressed on the fact that success and failures of past will have little credence as they take on Pakistan.

“We’ve not allowed the Commonwealth Games final and the Asian Games semifinals to play on our minds. Similarly, we won’t be looking back at last year’s matches against Pakistan.

“What happened in last year’s matches is now history, just as the earlier matches in this tournament. The boys are eager to perform well,” he said.

Pakistan will be looking to reverse the trend of defeats against India. “Against India, we want to execute our plans in a better way that we’ve done so far,” said Pakistan team manager Khawaja Junaid. “We look forward to coming back strongly in this match,” said Junaid, a former international.

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