New Delhi: Pakistan's star striker Shakeel Abbasi feels the Indian hockey team will enjoy an upper hand in the upcoming Incheon Asian Games due to its continous international exposure which is lacking in their case.
"India have played World Cup, Glasgow CWG apart from exposure tours while we could not qualify for the WC and did not participate in CWG. Pakistan have not played international hockey for last 11 months which will give India and Korea an upper hand," Abbasi told PTI in an interview from Islamabad.
India and defending champions Pakistan are in the same pool B in the 2014 Asian Games which will be held in Incheon, South Korea from September 19 to October 4.
The other teams in the pool are China, Sri Lanka and Oman while pool A consists of Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, Bangladesh and Singapore.
Asked if lack of exposure will put Pakistan under additional pressure to perform, Abbasi said: "We want to win gold again to avoid qualifiers for Olympics but there is no additional pressure."
"India was out of Beijing Olympics in 2008 but after that the standard of Indian hockey has improved a lot. Similarly, it can be the beginning of a new era for us after the WC fiasco," he said.
Abbasi said India have some fantastic players and this is the best Indian team in almost a decade.
"I think that this is the best Indian team since I have been playing international hockey. There is not much gap left between junior and senior combination," he said.
"India have got some immensely talented players like Manpreet Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh from Hockey India League. Their goalkeeper PR Sreejesh is also in tremendous form," said Abbasi, who is also making a comeback in the team.
The 30-year-old centre-forward is hoping for an India-Pakistan final but conceded that South Korea are one of the top contenders.
"Koreans will have home advantage and India, Pakistan will have to work really hard to stop them. I would like India and Pakistan to play the final but we will also play each other in the pool phase on 25th September. The key will be handling the pressure like any other India-Pakistan match and we are prepared for that," he said.
Pakistan have won eight golds in Asian Games men's hockey competition while Guangzhou games bronze medallist India managed to win the yellow medal only thrice with the last one coming in the Bangkok Asian Games in 1998.