Karachi, Oct 21 (IANS) Pakistan’s hockey captain Zeeshan Ashraf is confident that his team can end its losing streak against India and tame the arch-rivals in next month’s Asian Games at Guangzhou in China.
Pakistan and India will meet in a crucial Pool B encounter of the Asian Games hockey event Nov 20.
‘We have to win our match against India at all costs,’ Zeeshan said in an interview Thursday. ‘We played badly against them in our last match but we won’t repeat the same mistakes again in Guangzhou,’ added the experienced defender.
Pakistan were unable to counter India’s speed and precision and lost 4-7 in their Commonwealth Games clash in New Delhi. In a similar result, India also beat Pakistan in their World Cup clash at the same venue in March.
Zeeshan said that his team won’t go down in their third meeting of the year against India.
‘We won’t let Pakistan down again,’ he stressed. ‘The match against India will be really crucial for us because it might decide which team from our pool will play against South Korea in the semifinals.’
Defending champion South Korea head Pool A that also includes hosts China, Malaysia and minnows Oman. Pakistan share Pool B with India, Japan, Bangladesh and Hong Kong.
Zeeshan said the match against India will be Pakistan’s most important pool outing but was quick to add that his team won’t be taking Japan for granted either.
‘Japan are a very good team on their day and we can’t afford to take them lightly,’ he said.
Zeeshan is confident that his team will finally beat India.
‘We are a bit short on experience when compared to India,’ he said. ‘But the boys are improving slowly but surely.’
The defender believes that ‘too many changes’ over the past few months have taken their toll on his team.
‘There have been too many changes in the line-up and also in the coaching staff. India on the other hand have experienced more stability and now they are on the way up.’
Zeeshan said Pakistan have to win the Asian Games crown to boost their hockey.
‘One big step to provide our hockey a much-needed boost is winning the Asian Games gold,’ he said. ‘We have to win such a title for the sake of the national game.’
Pakistan will begin the last leg of its Asian Games preparations Oct 25 in Islamabad. The team will stop over in Kuala Lumpur early next month to play two warm-up matches against Malaysia before landing in Guangzhou where they meet hosts China in a practice game ahead of the quadrennial spectacle.