With the Olympics less than two months away, Pakistan hockey sunk to a new low, the team recording its fifth successive loss to end the seven-team Azlan Shah Cup at the bottom.
Needing a win to avoid the wooden spoon, Pakistan lost to Great Britain 2-1 in Ipoh, Malaysia, yesterday as the three-time champions recorded their worst Azlan Shah Cup ever.
Pakistan got off to a good start with Abdul Haseem Khan giving them the lead in the 15th minute, a lead they maintained until the interval.
However, the Greenshirts failed to score after the resumption Great Britain, after scoring an equaliser in the 47th minute through Barry Middleton, clinched the match with Ashley Jackson putting one past the goal-keeper four minutes from time.
Former Olympian Hassan Sardar termed Pakistan’s awful show alarming and said that strict action should be taken to ensure that the team is not humiliated in the Olympics.
“This is really embarrassing and alarming for Pakistan,” Sardar told The Express Tribune. “If they finish bottom in the Azlan Shah Cup in such a poor manner, what will they do against the top sides in the Olympics? The Pakistan Hockey Federation should take serious note of this and ensure that this isn’t repeated in London.”
He added that Pakistan needed to bring back Shakeel Abbasi instantly to bring some experience in the attacking while Rehan Butt should also be called back only if he is fit.
“Abbasi should be in the team and his presence will make a big difference and Butt, if fit, should be selected too. But for me, the likes of Zeeshan Ashraf and Mohammad Wasim shouldn’t be called back.” Meanwhile, Wasim Feroze termed the national side a ‘school team’ after its dismal show.
“The way this team has played, it looked a school team was playing not knowing what to do,” said Feroze. “It’s Pakistan who gifted Great Britain the match. You can’t score once and then defend it for the rest of the match. Pakistan should’ve scored at least two goals before adopting the defensive strategy that it did.”
Feroze added that the team was mentally and physically drained and that showed in their performance — lack of confidence led to the lack of goals and defensive lapses.
“Pakistan were depending on Sohail Abbas only and that was wrong. If that’s the case then the other players should just sit out.
“One can’t blame Abbas only for the debacle because the whole team is responsible for the loss as it failed to do its duty properly. In my opinion, Abbas has crossed his prime and should retire after the Olympics.”
In other matches, New Zealand beat Korea 1-0 while Argentina overcame hosts Malaysia by the same margin. The Kiwis will now take on Argentina in the final, while Great Britain and India will fight for the third place. Korea and Malaysia, meanwhile, will take on each other for the 5th and 6th place playoff.
“This is really embarrassing and alarming. If they finish bottom in the Azlan Shah Cup, what will they do against the top sides in the Olympics? The Pakistan Hockey Federation should take serious note of this and ensure that this isn’t repeated in London.”
“The way this team has played, it looked a school team was playing not knowing what to do. You can’t score once and then defend it for the rest of the match. Pakistan should’ve scored at least two goals before adopting the defensive strategy that it did.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2012.