Blame it on Pakistan’s downfall in hockey or the sport losing its fanbase.
For the players however nothing changes once the ball starts rolling on the pitch. The ‘win-at-any-cost’ mindset takes precedence while playing the archrivals.
Asian Champions Trophy: India face Pakistan
No one other than Rehan Butt, among those part of the big game on Wednesday, would know what it means, for he has been part of many of those encounters during the early 2000s, which used to be virtual battles.
Nowadays, Rehan is part of Pakistan’s coaching set-up, assisting head coach Muhammad Saqlain.
“Whenever India and Pakistan have played, you don’t look at the teams on paper,” said Rehan, talking to Timesofindia.com at the team hotel in Chennai.
“Whenever (there is) an India-Pakistan match, coaching goes into the dustbin and emotions & enthusiasm work.”
Over the last decade, which saw Pakistan hitting a new low by failing to qualify for the Olympics and World Cup, India have bridged the gap in head-to-head between the two teams.
In 178 matches, according to the statistics available, India’s wins have increased to 64, while Pakistan remain ahead at 82.
Including their Asian Games 2018 face-off, there have been five matches played between the two neighbours in the last five years, with India winning four and one ending in a draw.
But Rehan believes that the current bunch of boys, most of whom haven’t played even 20 senior internationals, have ignited some hope back home.
“Till now, with the little amount of experience these boys have, the team has played excellently. Many are saying that after a long time Pakistan’s attacking hockey is on show,” the former Pakistan striker told Timesofindia.com in Chennai.
“These boys have nothing to lose in the match against India, they will only learn from it; and if they play according to their potential, they can make things difficult for the Indian team,” he believes.
His message to the Pakistan team is very simple.
“I used to play against India with a free mind. So I will tell the boys the same thing: just play hockey and enjoy the crowd and the atmosphere. Such paradises are difficult to find. You can have a full crowd in a cricket game, but not often in hockey,” Rehan further told TimesofIndia.com.
As far as Pakistan’s chances of qualifying for the semifinals are concerned, an upset win over India will take them through to the last-four stage, but if they lose, the margin of defeat and results in the other two matches on the last day of the league phase ( South Korea vs Malaysia and Japan vs China) will determine their fate.
The top four teams among the six competing nations progress to the semifinals. Pakistan are number four after playing four matches, while current table-toppers and hosts India have already booked a spot in the semis.