Pakistan, the most successful team in the history of Men’s Hockey World Cup with as many as four titles to their credit, failed to finish in the top four of the Men’s Hockey Asia Cup 2022 which is why they couldn’t seal a berth for the ongoing edition in India.
India, who are drawn with England, Spain and Wales in Pool D of Hockey World Cup 2023, won’t be playing against Pakistan in the ongoing tournament.
International Hockey Federation (FIH) president Tayyab Ikram on Sunday was quoted as saying by PTI that Pakistan should “follow India’s model” to come out of the slump it has endured in recent years.
“Pakistan is an important stakeholder. If you see in recent tournaments, the Pakistan-India match is still the world’s best property.
“As general secretary and chief executive of Asian Hockey (earlier) that property was with me in the Asia Cup and the Champions Trophy. I know the value of that,” Ikram, who was born in Pakistan but is now based in Macau, said at a press conference here.
“There is always assistance from the global governing body. I remember I was involved in the launch of the Indian hockey project, the India specific project of the FIH. I will be happy to launch such a project for Pakistan but there should be a willingness from their side. They should join the journey.” Ikram was referring to the ‘Promoting Indian Hockey’ project launched by the FIH in 2007 to raise the standard of the game in the country. The game was on decline in India at that time. The project was later renewed and India hosted the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi.
“We don’t have to go far, 2010 and 2022. If you don’t need to really follow many different models, just follow the model that Hockey India did,” Ikram said when asked what the FIH can do to help Pakistan where the game has been in a state of decline for some years.
“(It was) consistent and professional approach and high performance inputs that our athletes have been practising for decades. Change the whole landscape, change the mindset, and you go for it and India won a bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics. This does not happen in two days.
“So, it is the way. We have a great experience to share with best practice if you are willing to take it.” Ikram also said that the FIH was doing a study on tweaking of penalty corner hit rules to provide more safety to the defending players but made it clear that it was not thinking of reducing the speed of the ball from a drag flick.
“It is under study. The priority for us is the players’ safety and we are working on it. We are going to start with some experimentation on that. It is particularly on the safety issue of our players.
“The main thing is regarding the high intensity and the speed of the ball, the speed developed by the drag flick. We are not reducing the speed (of the ball) but trying to provide a little bit more time for defenders to react.” He later said that the solution could be found by having one or two more touches before the ball enters the circle.
“Our problem is the ball being sent with that high speed in the crowded area. It is better if the rusher has more time to have a clear vision (of the ball) or for a player who is on the wrong foot to be on the front foot.” Ikram said there is no plan to increase the number of teams participating in the World Cup from the current 16.
“There is no such plan in the senior World Cup, we may do that in the junior World Cup,” the top FIH official said.
He also said that Hockey5, which was introduced in the Youth Olympics, was not threatening any other format and so will continue.
“FIH is trying to maximize all formats,” he said.
He also said Hockey India and the Odisha government had made proposals to host more tournaments.
“We earlier had a proposal from Hockey India to hold another special tournament. There is another proposal from Odisha that they would like to have another tournament. It is still not official as the proposal is coming from them.
“The window is congested but we are not discouraging any national federation from having any invitational tournament. The Sultan Azlan Shah is continuing just like the Sultan of Johor Cup. FIH is ready to accommodate those requests.” Asked about the Hockey India League which the country’s federation is trying to revive this year, Ikram said, “There is already some discussion to find the window and we don’t have any update on that. We have not got a formal proposal from Hockey India. But the professional way it (HI) was held in the last two or three editions gave a big boost.
“But now, let us see how it will combine with the Pro League because at the end of the day you need athletes. So, we are on this question but we are still waiting for the proposal (from HI).”
(With PTI Inputs)