DHAKA: He is a former Indian Captain and is the currently the Assistant Coach of the Indian Senior National Team. Shanmugam Venkatesh who led India in the last bilateral series against Pakistan in Pakistan in 2005 feels all matches against Pakistan is primarily a “psychological battle.”
“Be it a player or a layman, everyone gets to feel the heat when an India-Pakistan match is scheduled. Everyone gets into the zone before the match,” Venky-bhai as he’s fondly called by the players, opined.
“In India, we are acquainted with the rivalry between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. At the international stage, everyone regards the India-Pakistan fixture very highly. This battle is primarily a psychological one. The mindset of the team decides whether they’ll prevail or not,” he added.
“Players will need to understand the importance of the fixture. They need to grasp every single aspect of the game. Is it a home game or an away one? Which tournament are they playing?” Venkatesh stated.
On being asked about his personal memories of playing Pakistan, the 40-year-old quipped: “I still remember my first Pakistan match. We played them in Goa — it was SAFF Championship 1997 which we went on to eventually win,” he recollected.
“We had a clinical game and won 2-0 at the end. Technically, maybe we were superior but as I said before, the game relies on the steel nerve mentality of the team.”
The three-time SAFF Champion (1997, 1999, 2005) also ended up on the losing side once out of the seven matches he played against Pakistan.
“I played 7 matches against Pakistan and lost once. That was in the Friendship Cup in 2005. We drew and won the other two matches. The series ended 1-1 but after the loss, it was like the end of the world for us. Such was the reaction from everyone,” he smiled.
This Friendship Cup was also significant to have seen a youngster scoring his maiden goal for the country on his debut in front of a legion of Pakistan supporters on their own soil – Sunil Chhetri.