DUBAI // The strained political relations between neighbours India and Pakistan has seen their cricketing ties suffer over the years, but Narinder Batra, the new president of the International Hockey Federation (FIH), has said there will be no such issues on the hockey pitch.
If India cannot travel to Pakistan for their hockey matches, then the two subcontinental neighbours will face each other on neutral ground, with Hasan Sardar, the former Pakistan captain, calling for the matches to be played in the UAE instead.
During their four-day Hockey Revolution Conference here in Dubai, the FIH announced plans for a completely rejigged global calendar from 2019, doing away with the Champions Trophy, one of international hockey calendar’s most coveted tournaments, and introducing a new “Home and Away” league.
The league will see six to nine national teams, both men and women, playing each other on a home and away basis, and India and Pakistan, given the passion for the sport in those two countries, should certainly feature in the league.
Asked if India will agree to travel to Pakistan for these league matches, Batra, who will be stepping down as president of Hockey India after taking over as the FIH chief, is confident they will.
“There are certain political compulsions between India and Pakistan, certain political issues,” Batra said. “When they start, when they stop, nobody has any idea. But international commitments, you cannot refuse, whether you are India or you are Pakistan.
“If India and Pakistan are part of the home and away global league, we will have to play each other. It is as simple as that.
“You cannot ignore your international commitments. If India tries to ignore their international commitment, or Pakistan tries to do that, then you will miss the bus to the Olympics and you cannot afford to do that.
“Talking as the president of Hockey India, I just want to add one more thing: Me and the president of the Pakistan federation, we sat together and we have resolved all our past issues.”
Batra, however, does understand the security situation in Pakistan could also be an obstacle towards India allowing their team to travel to Pakistan.