The India-Pakistan rivalry in hockey is unparalleled in terms of competitive spirit and crowd response. Historian K Arumugam reflects on his memories of this rivalry over the years as the Asian Champions Trophy approaches.
“India and Pakistan have played four times on this turf, the best of which I recall being the 1995 South Asian Federation Games,” said historian Arumugam.
“You never saw such a frenzy at that time because, in 1994, Pakistan won a World Cup and emerged as the World Cup champion, while India was nowhere to be found. We (India) finished 10th in Lahore, so our rating was much lower, and the recent history was that whenever Pakistan came here, they always beat us. When Pakistan came to India, they used to beat us and take great pleasure in doing so,” he added.
Arumugam also speaks about the atmosphere in Madras (now Chennai) before and during the match. He said, “But the atmosphere and build-up to the game were different here. The most important thing was that it was the only match where tickets for the 95 South Asian Federation Games were sold; otherwise, all games in the other 17 disciplines were free.”
“Even after ticket sales, all three entries, I vividly recall that twice as many people were waiting and attempting to enter the stadium as people were sitting inside with tickets. That was the crowd response, which I have not seen repeated in the next ten years, despite Pakistan playing India three times more,” he added.
The match was played on the artificial turf of Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium in Egmore in 1995. India dished out a delectable and entertaining display to beat Pakistan 5-2 in the final in front of a full-capacity crowd. Pargat Singh received the winner’s Trophy from the then-TN Chief Minister, J. Jayalalithaa. Dhanraj Pillai scored a hat-trick, and Mukesh Kumar registered a brace.
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