The partition of India in 1947 did not just result in the formation of two independent states of India and Pakistan but was the harbinger of an amaranthine rivalry which over the years had almost figuratively spread to the veins of the people residing in these two nations. Even in the field of sports, the countries have often locked horns against each other in a fight for supremacy. The recent highlight in this regard definitely has to be Hockey India CEO’s remark of ‘all teams’ being ‘welcome’ for the Men’s Hockey World Cup which is set to take place in the Kalinga Stadium, Bhuvaneshwar, later next year.
Hockey India CEO, Elena Norman has dismissed all doubts regarding the Pakistan Men’s Hockey team’s welcome and participation in the World Cup by saying, ‘They are welcome here. Like any other team’. She added that Hockey India has already issued an official sanction from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to host 16 teams for the tournament and that is inclusive of Pakistan. Moreover, she has also reaffirmed that the penultimate and ultimate clearances from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs are also on their way as they have already received an initial nod for the aforementioned event from one of them. She quipped that the onus to participate will now lie in the hands of Pakistan Hockey Federation.
The green signal for participation should really not come as a surprise for Pakistan since this is not the first time India is hosting Pakistan in a World Cup tournament. India had previously invited Pakistan for the 2010 and 1982 FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup. In fact, the visitors have even managed to claim the title in the year 1982. India can take solace from the fact that they managed to beat their arch-rivals comprehensively, in their group stage clash in 2010, in an otherwise disastrous tournament.
India-Pakistan hockey rivalry has always been one of the most interesting rivalries of the game, so to speak. India and Pakistan have literally owned the Asian games Hockey finals. Both of them have managed to consistently feature in the first seven Asian games finals, which is a record in itself. They have even managed to feature in three consecutive Olympic Hockey finals from 1956 to 1964 with India winning it twice while Pakistan had the last laugh once. Pakistan has however tamed their rivals in four Asia cup hockey finals bagging three wins with India winning once. The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is another competition which witnesses a face-off between these two teams, a tournament held in Malaysia every year.
So far in 171 games between these nations, the results are in the favour of Pakistan in an 82-59 aggregate with 30 games resulting in a dull draw but India will surely want to make amends. In fact, India is on a 7 match winning streak against their rivals if we consider the last 7 seven clashes between these two teams.
Irrespective of what the stats speak, if the uncertainties on their participation die away and if Pakistan eventually makes the cut for the tournament, hockey fanatics from both nations can expect a mesmerizing clash of the titans!