India will face off against Pakistan in the three-nation hockey tournament at Perth on Saturday. Australia are already through to the finals, while India need just a draw against Pakistan to reach the final at the expense of their arch-rivals who are still winless after two games. Over the past few year's, India's hockey matches against Pakistan have been nothing short of classic encounters. At last year's Champions Trophy, in their league match India upstaged Pakistan for a 3-2 win. But in the playoff for the third place, India went down 4-3.
A few weeks later, India got the better of their old rivals in the semi-finals of the Asian Games in Busan. India eventually lost to South Korea in the final. For Pakistan, their defeat in the Asian Games semi-final meant that for the first time in more than 40 years, they finished without a medal in hockey at the Asian Games. India is using the event in Australia as a build-up to the Athens Olympics. But off the field, they have already suffered a huge blow with Castrol withdrawing their sponsorship.
World Cup triumphs
Castrol, which were the official sponsors of India hockey since 2001, have pulled out citing cost cutting measures. The Indian Hockey Federation has refused to comment but former players feel that without sponsorship the game will simply die out. "If you don't get the right sponsor for the Indian hockey team it will definitely affect the future of the team. We have to make trips to other countries to gain experience. Naturally we need funds to run the team, and if we fail in that it will affect Indian hockey," say former India captain Zafar Iqbal. India's last major triumph over Pakistan was in the final of the Prime Minister's Gold Cup in Dhaka in 2001. But in the tournament at Perth they cannot meet in the finals since Australia are already through to the final and India need just a draw against Pakistan to join the hosts. However, the two teams will meet again in the second leg of this tournament in Sydney.