Pakistan’s 10-2 defeat to India in men’s hockey at the 2023 Hangzhou Asian Games is unlikely to be as historic as the 7-1 loss in the 1982 Delhi Asian Games. The recent loss, while India’s largest over Pakistan, seemed routine, underscoring the one-sided nature of their recent encounters. The Indian team dominated, scoring effortlessly and earning penalty corners and strokes at will. Captain Harmanpreet scored four goals, Varun Kumar netted twice, and Mandeep Singh, Sumit, Shamsher Singh, and Lalit Kumar Upadhyay also contributed to the score. Despite Pakistan reducing the margin with goals by Muhammad Khan and Abdul Rana, India’s dominant performance establishes a strong foundation for upcoming matches. India’s primary objective is to secure an automatic spot in the Paris Olympics by winning the gold medal at these Games. They have one more pool game against Bangladesh before entering the knockout stage.
An outcome other than a decisive Indian victory would have been quite surprising, considering the contrasting paths that hockey has taken in India and Pakistan. The disparity in the scoreline wasn’t unexpected, given the challenges faced by Pakistan in recent years, both on and off the field. The decline in Pakistan’s hockey performance, leading to their exclusion from prestigious events like the Olympics and World Cups, is attributed to financial mismanagement and administrative issues within the Pakistan Hockey Federation.
India swiftly took the lead in the match, with Abhishek making an impressive run and setting up Mandeep for the opening goal within eight minutes. Despite starting with Krishan Bahadur Pathak in goal instead of the more renowned PR Sreejesh, India continued their dominance. Pathak’s crucial save during a penalty corner proved significant, and India extended their lead when Pakistan’s Akmal Hussain conceded a penalty stroke, converted by Harmanpreet. Harmanpreet, India’s key drag-flicker, secured the third goal, his sixth of the tournament, in the 17th minute through a penalty corner. In contrast, Pakistan struggled to breach the Indian defense, hardly creating clear goal-scoring opportunities in open play under the coaching of Muhammad Saeed Khan.
Sreejesh was introduced into the game later, making a notable save during another penalty corner. Just moments before the halftime whistle, Sumit’s reverse hit found the mark, extending India’s lead to 4-0, effectively sealing the outcome of the match. The primary focus then shifted to the margin of India’s victory, which was emerging as the main talking point of the game. The second half witnessed a further downturn for Pakistan as they conceded yet another penalty stroke, which Harmanpreet calmly converted. The captain then notched up his fourth goal of the night with a precise drag-flick. Despite Pakistan managing to pull one back, Varun quickly responded, mirroring the iconic 7-1 scoreline from 1982 – the previous largest margin of victory for India against their arch-rivals. However, the ordeal for Pakistan continued as their misery reached double digits shortly afterward.