The series is over, but a win in the last match at least ended the series on a positive note for the Indians who scored a good 2-0 win, only their second in the eight-match series which they lost 2-4.
It was great to see Dilip Tirkey back in action to lead the team. Tirkey has been a good motivator for the side and his own performance has shown tremendous upward movement in the past couple of years. As the senior man, he shows a lot of maturity and is able to get the best out of the side. He is indeed an asset in the defence and when he is leading, the team looks more purposeful.
In their two previous encounters in Hyderabad, India had beaten Pakistan on both the occasions and this seemed to charge them up even before the final match had began. India had beaten Pakistan in both the league and final in the Afro-Asian Games last year.
For a change, the Indians used both their flanks effectively. They played with better combination and showed themselves to be a unit, rather than disjointed pieces as was the case in the past matches. There was a method in the way the midfield and forward line functioned. And the efforts showed.
While there is no denying the talent in the side, what I feel is holding them back in terms of overall performance is lack of consistency. That could be because of a variety of reasons, including fitness and injuries.
Coming back to the Hyderabad match, Sandeep Michael scored first after exerting a lot of pressure on the Pakistani defence.
It was Tushar Khandekar who started the move with a good run on the left flank. Combining with Vikram Pillay, the ball finally came to Michael, who scored with a deflection after Pillay had a shy.
Khandekar himself added the second goal to make it 2-0. Prabodh Tirkey went on a solo run following a counter attack and he made the ball for Khandekar who did the needful.
There were some more chances for India, but they did not materialise into goals. On the other hand, even though Indian goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza and the defence led by Tirkey did a geat job, it seemed Pakistan were short on motivation.
Probably, they felt the job was done after the series had been won. It is a failing that can cost them in the future, because no team can afford to let another team gain psychological advantage even in an inconsequential match.
From India's point of view, whenever they meet Pakistan next, they will go in with the positive feeling of having won the previous clash.
The new world record holder for maximum goals in international hockey, Sohail Abbas, was not able to add to his tally. Pakistan got six penalty corners and all were wasted.
To some extent the credit for that should go to D'Souza, who has been terrific throughout the year. He charged out too soon to stop Abbas and in the bargain it also cost him a green card, but he had saved the citadel and in the end that is what counts.
Finally, it was nice to see such camaraderie between the two teams.
The teams formed a kind of an umbrella as Abbas walked out for the final match of the series, which was held after a gap of five years. Indeed, it has been a great series, even though one can question the timing of it, but it is still better than not having any hockey at all.