Indo-Pak rivalry set to light up CWG ?

Indo-Pak rivalry set to light up CWG ?

A sporting clash which is never short of political undertones, India and Pakistan will be up against each other in their Commonwealth Games hockey Group B opener here  on Saturday.

"We start favourites," declared India coach Sjoerd Marijne after his team's practice session here.

More than the politics though, Marijne was concerned about the high temperatures in Gold Coast.  "It's really hot, 28-29 degrees and we play at 2:30 pm (Local Time). It will be difficult. That's why we have to stay calm," he said.

England, Wales and Malaysia  are the other teams  in the Group.

The two sides' last Commonwealth Games face-off happened eight years ago in the 2010 Delhi edition. India won the fixture 7-4.

Overall, the record stands 1-1 between the two sides as Pakistan had the last laugh in the 2006 Games in Melbourne. The two teams squared off at last year's Asia Cup in Bangladesh where India claimed the honours.

Under the guidance of Marijne, the form also seems to be on India's side, having claimed the Asia Cup in October. Marijne took over from compatriot Roelant Oltmans, who is now the chief coach of Pakistan.  

India have four penalty corner specialists in Rupinder Pal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar and Amit Rohidas. However, their poor conversion rate  is a big cause of concern for Marijne.

Skipper Manpreet Singh will  oversee the midfield, while SV Sunil and Gurjant Singh will be expected to lead attacks on the opposition citadel. The ever-reliable PR Sreejesh will be guarding the Indian net.

Pakistan has not had good results in the last few months.  They crashed out early in the Asia Cup before going down in the four-nation invitational in Australia.

Given the turmoil, they are not expected to be much of a challenge for India but then an Indo-Pak showdown has always been known to bring out something special from both sides.

So much so that even Australian captain Mark Knowles is looking forward to it.

"This is the one (match) people should get out and watch,  there is colour,  there is flair and excitement. It is two sports mad nations going at each other. It will be very exciting," he said.

 

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