June 21, 2021
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Verbal Duel

'Sledging Part Of Modern Hockey'

'When we have the upper hand in a game, we try to unsettle the Indians by verbal sparring,' reveals the world's best drag-flick specialist

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'Sledging Part Of Modern Hockey'

Sledging is not limited to cricket alone and it raises its head, albeit not an ugly one, during hockey matches specially involving staunch rivals India and Pakistan.

Pakistan's Sohail Abbas, arguably the world's best drag flicker, revealed this aspect of the game and said his team often resorted to sledging to unsettle the Indians.

"When we have the upper hand in the game, we try to unsettle the Indians by verbal sparring. Sledging is a part of modern hockey though not many people may know about it," Sohail said in an interview in Kuala Lumpur.

With India and Pakistan matches invariably being high-voltage affairs, even a minor lapse in concentration could become the difference between national pride and humiliation and Abbas said this was the reason why both teams try to play on on each other's minds.

"We know which players are volatile in the Indian team -- Gagan Ajit Singh, Prabhjot Singh and Jugraj Singh -- and target them for sledging. They also know that in our team Saqlain Mohammed, goalkeeper Ahmed Alam and Ali Raza are hot tempered and get worked up easily," the 24-year-old player said.

And when matters go out of hand, as it happened during India's 7-4 victory against Pakistan during last month's Champions Trophy, it is Abbas and Indian captain Dhanraj Pillay who try to cool things down.

"It is our job (Dhanraj and Abbas) to separate the players and prevent them from coming to blows some times," said the ace defender, the highest goal scorer for Pakistan ever.

But Abbas reminded that the cut-throat rivalry is limited to the hockey field and the players do not carry the grudge after the game.

"After the game we are friends. We exchange CDs and all. 'Koi kisi ke liye saree lata hai aur koi mithai' (some bring sarees while others get sweets). We go out to dinner together too. Unfortunately people don't get to see this aspect of our lives."

Abbas blamed the attitude of the Indian and Pakistani fans for creating so much hype around India-Pakistan matches.

"They make it an issue of national pride. For them it is like going to war. Back home the thinking is it does not matter even if you finish sixth but you must beat India. It could be the same in India... It is actually sad and such an attitude must go.

"Sports has to be taken in a sporting spirit. Sometimes you win and sometimes you may lose. Our people cannot tolerate defeat at the hands of India. One must be mature enough to accept defeat. We also get to hear that Pakistan won the match so there was firing across the border and someone died. It really hurts. We are not playing to hear all this."

Abbas felt one way to make India-Pakistan matches like any other regular outing was that both teams should meet each other more often on the hockey ground.

"We should play each other more and more so that people don't make a big deal out of it all. This will also help them to accept defeats as we are also human and we cannot win every time we play against India," he said.

With India and Pakistan meeting in the final of the Asia Cup tournament tomorrow, the excitement is again building up and Abbas said it was difficult to predict who would win the match.

"Hockey is a game of one day. On paper our team is better but whichever team plays well on the day will win. It is all about availing the chances. Both the teams have come to win the Asia Cup and it will be an exciting match," he said.

Abbas said the standard of hockey in both India and Pakistan had come down because of the insistence of the authorities to stick to the old style of playing the game.

"European teams try to learn after every loss while we fret all the time and like to live in past glory instead of taking up to new techniques. We should have foreign coaches who are very professional and aware of the latest techniques," Abbas said adding Pakistan's present coach Tahir Zaman was doing a very good job.

"We were a little apprehensive and sceptical when Tahir Zaman took over as coach. We thought Pakistan hockey will again go down in the rut. Players are sceptical about former players taking over as coaches because there is a negative thinking that he may promote his own players on regional or religious lines.


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