Hockey World Cup 2018: Mercurial Pakistan eludes definition

On its day, Pakistan can be the best or the worst in the world, depending on which team turns up on the field.

Pakistan captain, Muhammad Rizwan.   -  AFP

Pakistan hockey has often eluded definition or predictions. On its day, it can be the best or the worst in the world, depending on which team turns up on the field. In its training sessions here, the team has appeared with questionable fitness and looked like a bunch of amateurs amidst a sea of hardened professionals.

And yet, no one is willing to write it off with coach Tauqeer Ahmed Dar admitting everything was secondary to mind and heart. “It is all mental. Yes fitness is important but in the end, how strong you are mentally and how big a heart you have is what makes the difference. It is temperament that counts,” Dar said here on Friday. His comments might be a throwback to simpler times when science was not a part of teams’ trainings but when it comes to Pakistan, he might just have nailed the puzzle.

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It is one of the reasons he doesn’t call himself a coach. “I think the change I can bring is to motivate them and tell them they are Pakistan’s assets. They have all the skills in the world, what they lacked was motivation and confidence and that’s what we have been trying to give them as much as needed,” he declared.

Big words for a team ranked 13th in the world without funds to hire professional support staff or a domestic structure to keep churning out players. But there is also a realisation of realism. While the rest of the teams have been not too happy about the huge gaps between matches or the long tournament, Dar welcomed them. “For someone like us, ranked 13, with fitness issues, it is a good thing. Three days’ rest is very positive so that we can recover and regain focus after a game,” he signed off.