Asian Games: India hold the edge in final, says former Pak captain Rehan Butt
Even as a majority of India's hockey aficionados are confident that the national team will end its 16-year gold medal drought at the Asian Games when they take on Pakistan in today's final at Incheon, there's at least one positive indication from across the border too.
Former Pakistan captain and veteran striker Rehan Butt also believes that Sardar Singh & Co hold the edge in today's gold medal match.
"India is a much more experienced team as compared to Pakistan and that gives them the edge. A good blend of fitness and experience can work wonders and that's what India have," Butt told mid-day from his home in Karachi, Pakistan yesterday.
Rehan knows what its like to be Asian Games champion. He was an integral part of Pakistan's gold medal-winning team at the Guangzhou Asiad four years ago. In fact, he even scored the second goal in Pakistan's 2-0 final win over Malaysia.
Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt
Rehan (34) may not be in South Korea this time, but there's another Butt, who holds the key for the Pakistanis. Rehan's younger brother Imran (25) is the team's goalkeeper and has done a brilliant job this far in the tournament.
"Imran did well particularly in the semi-final against Malaysia (where Pakistan won via the shootout). He is in fine form," said Rehan. But here too, experience, or rather the lack of it, could be a crucial factor, and Rehan realises that.
"Modern hockey, more often than not, is a 'drag-flicker vs goalkeeper' contest and India's Raghunath (25) has a lot more international experienced in his skill (drag-flicking) than Imran has in his.
Flicker of hope: India's V Raghunath (left) celebrates a goal against China in the Incheon Asiad. The experienced Raghunath will hold the key to India's success today as he is India's only drag-flicker in the absence of the injured Rupinderpal Singh. Pics/Getty Images
Besides, Pakistan are lacking in penalty corner conversions. But I hope Imran can emerge victorious against the odds," said Rehan.
The game though will be well contested, like any Indo-Pak encounter, felt Rehan. "Needless to say, it will be a very skillful match and irrespective of which team ends up on top, Asian hockey will emerge a winner," said Rehan, even as he preferred to avoid a final prediction.
"I hope the match goes into the shootout again, and you obviously know why," he signed off.