India, Pakistan gear-up for crucial clash


India and Pakistan will renew their bitter rivalry in a key Commonwealth Games match on Sunday that organisers claim has been sold out at the 19,000-seater Dhyan Chand National Stadium.
Pakistan are still nursing the wounds from a 4-1 mauling at the hands of India in a World Cup tie at this same venue early this year, while the hosts are out to repeat that scintillating triumph before an expectant crowd.
A win against Pakistan will not only resurrect India’s faltering campaign in the tournament but also put to rest all the talk about divisions in the camp following their demoralising 5-2 defeat to Australia.
India’s Spanish coach Jose Brasa, already in the news for his run-ins with his employers, said Thursday the team needed a sports psychologist, but captain Rajpal Singh immediately dismissed his suggestion.
Pakistan have their own worries to deal with going into the grudge tie.
They have much to prove after their disastrous last-place finish at the World Cup that prompted a major-shake cup in the side and cost coach Shahid Ali Khan his job.
Pakistan have since hired Dutchman Michel van den Heuvel in a desperate move to reverse the team’s sagging fortunes.
They have fared slightly better than their old foes in the Delhi Games, beating Scotland 3-0 and Malaysia 4-1.
“We will give it our all against India,” said Pakistan centre-forward Shakeel Abbasi. The old foes, once masters of the game, have been struggling to keep pace with European and Australian rivals over the past two decades.
India, who won the last of their eight Olympic gold medals in 1980, failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games and earned a World Cup berth this year only by virtue of being the hosts.
Pakistan, whose four World Cup titles are unmatched, have not won a major tournament since their last Cup win in Sydney in 1994.
In the Commonwealth Games, Pakistan beat India 4-1 the only time the two faced each other since the introduction of the sport in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur.