When is a draw a win? For this Pakistan team, it’s when coming back from 0-2 down to draw against India after the siren in their Commonwealth Games preliminary match at Labrador.
India were 2-1 up with just seconds left when Pakistan twice went to the video referrals to earn penalty corners, the second of which was buried by 20-year-old Mubashar Ali.
Two green cards and four yellow cards were brandished in what proved a typically spiky match between the arch-rivals.
The video referral that led to the penalty corner was contentious and the mainly pro-Indian crowd was quick to voice its disappointment.
But not Pakistan coach Roelant Oltmans, who gave a wry smile when asked how it felt to beat a team he previously coached.
Oltmans spent four years with the Indian team after being appointed High Performance Director in 2013 and then moving into a senior coaching role.
“Of course it helps knowing India but I analyse every opponent,” Oltmans said. “At halftime we were 2-nil down but we had our opportunities and told our boys we had to continue; I was sure we could keep pressure on them and we got quite a number of penalty corners.”
The Dutchman said India was a strong team, and so he had no trouble turning all his attention to Pakistan when he returned to the top job.
“The only thing important for me is to bring Pakistan back,” he said. “Mentally the boys felt they were strong to come back and they were so focused. Lucky after the final whistle to score a goal, but a good decision from our players to ask for a referral.”
India urged to curb emotions
“We were not happy with the performance. We wanted to win this game. We are disappointed with the result,” said defender Rupinder Pal Singh, slamming India’s lack of discipline.
“That’s disloyalty to the team, and that’s where we need to control our emotions. Sometimes we are so aggressive in our tackles.”
India’s Dilpreet Singh scored the opener before penalty corner specialist Harmanpreet Singh put them 2-0 up with a trademark drag flick.
But Muhammad Irfan gave Pakistan a lifeline early in the second half when he tapped in after a counter-attack.
“To come back from 2-0 is a team effort,” said Pakistan midfielder Muhammed Rizwan.
“It’s a learning process, as there are lots of new guys, and we’ve only been with our coach for two-and-a-half weeks.”
Pakistan, a three-time Olympic and four-time World Cup champion, failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and is currently ranked No. 13 in the world.
That’s well below eight-time Olympic gold medalist India, the highest ranked team in Asia at No. 6.
Regardless of the rankings, though, the Indo-Pak contests are always tense despite what Oltmans says.
“Look off the field, these boys know each other very well in the (athletes) village [and] they play table tennis or billiards,” he said. “When they take the field they have healthy competition, this is what you want.”
But when the 63-year-old Oltmans, an Olympic-winning coach with the Netherlands who can be intense or charming depending on the result, almost skips over to a news conference after a game, it’s fairly clear a 2-2 draw can feel like a victory.
India: Dilpreet Singh (12′) & Harmanpreet Singh PC (19′)
Pakistan: Mohammad Irfan Jr (38′) & Mubashar Ali (60′)