When Pakistan senior hockey team was going to Netherlands to participate in the 37th Champions Trophy, it was evident that the Green-shirts would not do anything extraordinary against the world’s best teams.
Pakistan were ranked 13. All the other teams were ranked higher and included the world and Olympic champions. But they played well against all the three leading teams of the world. They even defeated Olympic champions and World No 2 Argentina by a big margin of 4-1.
They lost against world champions and World No 1 Australia after a nail-biting contest. They had taken the lead and lost the match just four minutes before the whistle.
Pakistan lost to Belgium, World No 3, 1-2 in penalty shootout. Pakistan lost against India 4-0. But they were 7th ranked and eventually played the final. Only three months ago, Pakistan lost against Australia by 9-0 and were held to a draw by minnows Oman.
Pakistan manager Olympian Hasan Sardar and head coach Roelant Oltmans had said before the event that they were taking the Champions Trophy as an opportunity to experiment ahead of the Asian Games.
But they had promised that Pakistan would give tough time to all teams. Pakistan are much better than they were a couple of months ago. Their confidence has gone up. They did not surrender against strong teams as they had been doing.
Their performance in Commonwealth Gems two months ago and in the last three matches in Champions Trophy against three leading sides tells that the Green-shirts have learnt a lot about modern-day hockey.
Oltmans had also said that Pakistan would be able to challenge the supremacy of all leading teams within two years. It was lack of experience of international matches which prevented Pakistan from winning against Belgium and Australia as the players came under pressure in the closing moments.
Their failure to maintain the lead, nervousness in the last moments, missing goal-scoring chances, and weak defence were exposed time and again. These shortcomings can be overcome only when Pakistan play international matches against strong teams regularly.
Pakistan has remained isolated in the world for long. Foreign teams have not been coming to Pakistan. Neither have they been inviting Pakistan. Only by playing big tournaments like Champions Trophy, Pakistan cannot start winning. We should give some more time to the team management and judge them in Asian Games 2018, where all participant teams will be of Asia.
Syed Intikhab Ali -The News