India-Pakistan clash:The Semi-Final of the 1973 World Cup was perhaps the greatest India-Pakistan clash,” recounts V Baskaran
India-Pakistan clash : less than 100 days to go for the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s Hockey World Cup Bhubaneswar-Rourkela 2023, the anticipation to witness the world’s best hockey players at one of the world’s most preferred hockey destinations – Odisha, is only increasing by each passing day. While the Indian team carries out their preparations to end the medal drought in the prestigious event, it’s time for the hockey fans to relive the memories from India’s historic World Cup campaigns through Hockey India’s Flashback Series – World Cup Special.
Through these Series of articles leading up to the marquee event in Odisha, Hockey India will bring you thoughts, anecdotes and trivia from Indian Hockey Legends who ruled the world with their wizardry and panache.
Winner of the Silver Medal in the 1973 World Cup held at the Wegener Stadium in Amstelveen, Netherlands, Vasudevan Baskaran recounts vividly the incredible support India received from the Dutch spectators throughout their campaign.
“I think many of them were surprised to see us do two warm-ups. The weather in Amstelveen was very cold and we really wanted to avoid injuries, so Jagmohan our fitness trainer would make us do two sessions of warm-up,” Baskaran candidly recounted.
“I remember Tanvir Dhar, the great Pakistani defender asking me in our team hotel – have you come to do running or play hockey.”
With rich experience at the Olympic Games and a Bronze medal in the inaugural edition of the World Cup in Barcelona Spain, India was upbeat to bring home the Cup. India’s campaign got off to a smooth start, with 0-0 draw against West Germany, 4-0 win against Kenya, 1-1 draw against New Zealand and 2-0 win against Spain. It was, however, the Semi Final match against Pakistan which Baskaran felt was the most memorable from the tournament.
“The emotions were so high. The Indo-Pak war of 1971 was fresh in everyone’s mind. Harcharan Singh and Harmik Singh were from Pathankot and they had seen the effects of that war quite closely, so naturally we had that urge to win against them. The tempo was high and interestingly enough, the Netherlands crowd turned up in big numbers to support us,” recalled Baskaran, Captain of the Indian Team that won the gold at the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980.
“It was a battle of equals; we had the best forwardline and they had incredible defenders. Surjit Singh played his heart out in that game because there were some tense moments against Pakistan’s forwardline. But it was that goal by PB Govinda in the 62nd minute that put us in the Final. A beautiful pass from Ajit Pal Singh to Govinda who flicked the ball to the left of the corner, a goal like that on thick grass pitch was simply magical.”
Although India lost the Final 2-4 in penalties to hosts Netherlands after a 2-2 draw in the regulation time, it was this match against Pakistan that would be recounted as one of the best. He said, “
It was a case of being so near, yet so far. We saw the Cup slipping from our hands, but surely, the Semi Final against Pakistan would be one of the best clashes in the history of the game.”
“India has a great change to finish on podium in Odisha”
Expressing his confidence in the Indian team, Baskaran said,
“I believe they can definitely finish on the podium in Odisha this time. They should move on from the CWG Final loss to Australia and ride on the confidence they gained from the Tokyo Olympic Games. The team is in the good hands of Graham Reid and the support staff. I believe they have a sure shot at a medal.”
He further stated that a good start against Spain will put them in right stead.
“If they get past the first hurdle against Spain in a big way, then there is no stopping them from going into medal matches,” Baskaran signed off.