Pakistan junior hockey coach Saeed Anjum sees the ongoing Junior World Cup in New Delhi as a major pointer to the future of the sport in his country, having failed for the first time to qualify for the next year's senior World Cup.
Pakistanis, he says, are seeing the failure of the senior team to make it to the World Cup as some sort of a crisis and they think the youngsters here will pull it out of it with an impressive showing in New Delhi.
The Pakistan junior team made an impressive start in New Delhi at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium with a 3-2 win over Egypt in their opening match.
Saeed, who was a member of the side that last won the senior World Cup in Sydney in 1994, told IANS that the juniors know that the expectations are huge and they have to come trumps here.
"The public expects a good performance from our junior team so that we could make the countrymen forget the loss the seniors suffered and restore their confidence in the sport. We have prepared well for the tournament and we will try our best," said Saeed, who also played in the team that won the bronze in 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Saeed said several factors had led to the dismal performance of the senior at the Asia Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, which was their last chance of qualifying for the World Cup.
But Pakistan have bounced back after the loss. They won the Asian Champions Trophy in Japan and nine of that team are here.
"Our boys made a lot of errors, particularly upfront, and the defence made could not cope with the pressure. But I think the team is recovering. The boys are good and they will produce good results," said the 45-year-old.
Saeed, however, admitted that playing in India will be a real challenge for the boys.
"It is natural for the boys to be under a bit of pressure as most of them are playing in India for the first time. They have just played in Europe but India brings with it a different kind of pressure. So will an Indian team be when it plays in Pakistan," said Saeed.
Saeed said the team management is trying to keep the atmosphere light.