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Pakistan’s recent series win against New Zealand have raised hopes about national hockey team’s chances in Australia

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akistan hockey team’s series-winning triumph in New Zealand against the hosts by 2-1 is a great sign. It has given some hope to Pakistan’s hockey lovers. Our hockey has faced several setbacks, including the failure to qualify for World Cup 2014 and Rio Olympics 2016.

Pakistan could not participate in the Junior Hockey World Cup 2016. Besides, foreign teams have been avoiding visiting Pakistan for past several years.

Pakistan are currently 14th in world hockey ranking but they managed to defeat New Zealand, who are ranked 8th at their own backyard. It was really a good job and showed that Green-shirts are progressing well.

Pakistan came back in the series after facing defeat in the first test match by 4-2. The Green-shirts drew the second test by 2-2, won the third by 4-2 due to the marvelous performance of new penalty corner striker Abu Bakar, who scored a hat-trick. Abu Bakar is the discovery of this series. He turned the table in Pakistan’s favour. We hope he will progress in future.

This was young Abubakar Mahmood’s first selection with Pakistan’s senior team. And he proved his worth at a crucial time when Pakistan desperately needed a win to remain in the competition.

From that match Pakistan’s confidence began to rise as they had leveled the series 1-1.

Captain Haseem Khan played a heroic role throughout the series as he spearheaded the forwards in all matches and put the rival team under pressure through attacking game. Haseem single-handedly stole the fourth match. Leading from the front, he scored a brace in Pakistan’s 2-1 win over the hosts in the 4th test.

But it is only the beginning. Pakistan have to go a long way. First, they have to qualify for the next world cup, of which qualifying round will be held in London in June this year.

The tour of New Zealand and Australia is part of the preparation for the qualifying round. The performance in New Zealand proved that the players have the ability to learn and that they can face tougher opponents in international matches.

The Green shirts next stop is Australia, where they will play four test matches. Australia are world champions and currently number one ranked in the world of hockey. The Aussies are far more dangerous than the New Zealanders. So Pakistan will have to control their nerves and make a different strategy.

Some members of the team played in the senior team for the first time in New Zealand.

Chief coach Khwaja Junaid told ‘The News on Sunday’ “No doubt Australia are one of the best teams, but our players are not under pressure. Especially after playing against the Black Sticks their confidence has increased. We are preparing our team for big events so we are taking these matches as an opportunity to make our team ready for big events like qualifying rounds in London.

“Regardless of winning and losing, we will do all experiments we think necessary during the four test matches against Australia to make a winning combination because this opportunity has come to us after a very long gap and we don’t want to waste it.

“Our actual target is to qualify for the World Cup 2018, for which we are doing hard work. This tour is also part of that preparation,” he said.

He said that goalkeepers, forwards and defenders all players were being given chances to show their skills. “Right now we are passing through a rebuilding process,” he added.

“This tour in Australia will show how much our boys have learnt. In these matches, only those players will be successful who can sustain pressure,” he said.

“We will go all out in all events and won’t play defensive hockey. Pakistan’s natural game is attacking and whatever success we have got in past has come due to our attacking approach. We have some good forwards and penalty corner specialists who are our key players,” he added.

All tests are to be played at Marrara Hockey Centre, Darwin: March 28, 29 and 31 and April 1.

Syed Intikhab Ali

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