India captain P R Sreejesh is keen that his players play it cool when the Asian Champions Trophy’s key encounter against arch sub-continental hockey rivals Pakistan comes up on Sunday.
Seeking to cool the nerves of his players, Sreejesh says the Indian team have set sights on winning the Asian Champions Trophy title and the preliminary league fixture against Pakistan is just one of those games.
“Pakistan is just one of the teams in the tournament. We are right now looking for three points from Saturday’s match against South Korea,” said Sreejesh as prepares for two key matches against former Asian champions South Korea and sub-continental hockey rivals Pakistan on successive days.
“Pressure could build up on the players from back home, so I have advised the players to focus on the match here and try to stay away even from the social media,” Sreejesh said as he downplayed the recent political tension between the two countries.
However, Sreejesh had made a contrasting comment following the Uri terror attack in September.
“India-Pakistan match brings a lot of excitement to the table. We want to give hundred per cent. We don’t want to disappoint our soldiers by losing, especially when they sacrifice their lives in the exchange of fire at the borders,” Sreejesh said.
Pakistan came into this tournament as the defending champions, but suffered a shock 2-4 defeat by hosts Malaysia in the opening fixture yesterday, while India launched their campaign with a rousing 10-2 victory over Japan.
India had won the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy in 2011 by defeating Pakistan in the final. Pakistan reversed the result in the title encounter the following year.
Pakistan retained the title by defeating Japan in the final in 2013, when India sent their under-21 team and finished fifth. For the next two years, this tournament was scrapped from the international fixtures.
Sreejesh played a key role when India dethroned Pakistan as the Asian Games hockey champions at Incheon in 2014. That loss to India in the Asian Games final led to Pakistan’s failure to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Coming in the wake of Pakistan having missed a place in the 2014 World Cup lineup for the first time, it has been a frustrating period for Pakistan hockey.