Pakistan crashed out of the title race at the Hockey World League in Malaysia, after a 4-3 loss against South Korea sealed their fate on July 4. Pakistan had progressed to the quarter-final after remaining unbeaten in three matches and had topped their group, results that meant the team was in good form and firing on all cylinders. A lower-ranked South Korea side was seen as an opponent that the Greenshirts should have dispatched with relative ease and a place in the last-four would have been sealed. But as lady luck would have it, Pakistan failed to confirm a top-three finish at the event, which would have seen them book a place for next year’s World Cup in the Netherlands. Now, the hockey team is fighting among the bottom-half places in the eight-nation event, meaning a golden opportunity to confirm a place at the World Cup has gone begging. The team, former powerhouse in the hockey world, now needs to win the Asia Cup to qualify for the World Cup.
The development, as sad as it is, reflects the inconsistency and mercurial nature of our sports sides. A touch of brilliance with which they excel on the field one day, before being reduced to a bunch of unskilful players the next. Motivation or complacency issues aside, they seem to have failed in rectifying their mistakes despite identifying and pinpointing their weaknesses. Second-half blunders is what the team management stated they were working on and it was the second-half where the team surrendered. Shakeel Abbasi missed a penalty stroke and the result was sealed.
The idea behind so many training camps and an army of coaches is to ensure that such blunders do not occur. There is no guarantee of a better performance at the Asia Cup and thus, a place among the World Cup participants is doubtful as well. Suffice it to say that the hockey team has upheld the country’s sports team’s tradition of being unpredictable and mercurial. It is indeed unfortunate to see a side that was once a giant on the hockey field, fall so tamely by the wayside.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2013.
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