World’s leading goal-scorer Sohail Abbas was handed the captain’s arm-band as the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) announced an 18-man squad for the Azlan Shah Cup and the Europe tour ahead of the London Olympics.
The penalty corner specialist, who made his international debut in 1998 and has scored 328 goals, will lead the Greenshirts for the first time in the seven-nation Azlan Shah Cup that runs from May 24 to June 3 in Malaysia. Forward Waqas Sharif will assist Abbas as deputy skipper.
Pakistan players will then fly to Europe for matches against Holland, Germany and Belgium to fine-tune their skills ahead of the Olympics.
The selection committee, headed by Olympian Hanif Khan, announced the squad after trials in Islamabad. While there were hardly any surprises, Khalid Bhatti is the only uncapped player in the squad. Imran Butt and Imran Shah will be the two options as goal-keepers.
WSH rebels Abbasi, Butt snubbed
The committee also snubbed former captains Shakeel Abbasi and Rehan Butt who are awaiting the PHF disciplinary committee’s decision over their participation in the unauthorised World Series Hockey (WSH). The duo was included in the preliminary squad for the Olympics before they took part in the WSH in India.
“We didn’t receive clearance for these players,” the chief selector told The Express Tribune. “We cannot consider them when their case is pending before the disciplinary committee.”
Meanwhile, an official of the team management said the duo’s chances of taking part in the Azlan Shah Cup and the Europe tour were slim.
“The squad has been finalised,” said team coach Khwaja Junaid. “Their chances are very slim until the PHF decides that it wants them.”
Junaid, however, welcomed the appointment of Abbas as captain. “He was a deserving candidate and was the best available option. We’re hoping that he gels the team well.”
The coach said the experienced campaigner, who suffered a jaw injury during the Champions Trophy in December last year, was recovering well and has started training.
The squad includes: goal-keepers: Imran Butt and Imran Shah, fullbacks: Mohammad Irfan, Kashif Shah, Khalid Bhatti, halfbacks: Sohail Abbas (captain), Fareed Ahmed, Rashid Mehmud, Mohammad Tauseeq, Mohammad Rizwan Junior, forwards: Waqas Sharif (vice-captain), Shafqat Rasool, Abdul Haseem Khan, Rizwan Senior, Mohammad Zubair, Umer Bhutta, Shabbir Ahmed, Ali Shaan
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2012.