PhilBurrowNewzealand
Photo Credits : Phil Walter/Getty Images

Former New Zealand hockey striker Phil Burrows is unable to forget the league match against Pakistan in the 2004 Champions Trophy in Lahore. New Zealand were at the receiving end, losing the game 1-3 but even after 14 years, the “roar of the 50,000 plus” crowd at the National Stadium Lahore on that day resonates in Burrows’ mind.

Burrows, who made his international debut in 2004 and is New Zealand’s top scorer till date, cannot help but remember those days as he arrived in Karachi on Thursday (January 18) to be a part of the World XI vs Pakistan XI two-match hockey series, to be played over this weekend.

“I am really excited to be a part of this series in Pakistan and make a ‘small piece of history’.  It will be a great opportunity to play with some old hockey friends from around the world and also to see some old team mates from Pakistan, one in particular, Sohail Abbas, who I played with in Europe (Rotterdam HC) with for five years,” says the 37-year-old Burrows on his arrival in Pakistan.

“I remember the amazing crowds that showed up to support each and every match (in 2004) and I will never forget the day we played against Pakistan and the roar of the crowd when they scored (unfortunately!). I think maybe Abbas netted three that day as well….of course he did!”.

The World XI and Hall of Fame tour to Pakistan is Pakistan Hockey Federation’s attempt to send a message across to the world that the “country is safe to travel” and also to give a chance to its youngsters “to get some valuable experience”.

Says Burrows, who represented New Zealand at three Olympic Games, “Pakistan have always been a fantastic hockey nation and one I have grown up watching. Their attacking flare and passion for the game was second to none and of course, in my time they had the deadliest drag-flick component on the planet in Sohail Abbas.

“I remember as a young fellow watching Pakistan play a great match against Australia in Melbourne in the 90s. Shahbaz (Ahmed Senior) just so happened to be in full flight that day, running rings around his opponents… it was amazing to watch.”

Pakistan are currently ranked 13th in the world and have seen a string of poor performances in recent times. Lack of exposure and proper planning, no hockey matches at home combined with a couple of other factors have put them on the back foot.

Burrows says he wants to see hockey’s revival in Pakistan.

“I hope the Pakistan hockey public get behind the matches and help revive the game in this great hockey nation.  It would be fantastic to see plenty of people in the stands watching, hopefully we can put on a good display of hockey for them as well.

“I really hope it puts some passion and desire back into players and the nation to get back to the top in the world rankings. Pakistan obviously has a rich hockey history and I’m sure there are plenty of players in Pakistan willing to get them back to the top.

“I got to see the Pakistan Juniors (Under-18) play in the Australian State U-18 tournament last year as I was a coach for one of the opposing teams.  There was certainly some fantastic talent in that group and they played a very smart brand of hockey in relation to who they were playing. So, the talent is definitely there, it’s just about that next step up to the senior international hockey where hockey talent alone just doesn’t cut it anymore.

“There has to be some sacrifice and total commitment to the cause.”

How do I follow the #WorldXI live?

For live updates, one can follow us on Twitter @Dragflickworld. Dragflick provides commentary, live updates, social reactions and much more. The match will be telecasted live on PTV Sports.

January 19: Abdul Sattar Edhi Hockey Stadium, Karachi at 8:30 pm
January 21: National Hockey Stadium, Lahore at 2:30 pm