KARACHI: The Pakistan hockey team, following a dismal bottom-place finish in the Azlan Shah Cup is hoping for a quick turnaround on the training tour of Europe that the team is scheduled to leave for today.
Apart from Belgium, Pakistan will meet European giants Germany and the Netherlands from June 11 to 15, hoping to make amends after the Sohail Abbas-led side was criticised for its below-par show in all departments.
Sensing the need to improve, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) recalled the snubbed trio of former captains – Shakeel Abbasi, Mohammad Imran and Waseem Ahmed. Coach Khwaja Junaid hoped that the move will bring an all-round improvement in the team’s performance.
“The younger players will be spurred on with the seniors’ return,” Junaid told The Express Tribune on the eve of team’s departure.
“Imran will help Abbas in defence as well as the penalty-corner conversions. Waseem will boost our midfield while striker Abbasi will help our attack improve its conversion rate.”
While Abbasi was out of the team due to his participation in the unsanctioned World Series Hockey, the PHF overlooked Imran and Waseem when it announced the probables for Olympics in February.
“We wanted to give youngsters a chance and expand our bench strength. We are still in the process of finalising the squad and we felt the need for the seniors. Our final squad will be named after this tour. We will have a clear picture then and will know exactly who to take to London.”
Abbasi eyes successful return
Meanwhile, Abbasi said he was looking forward to his comeback.
“I trained as per my normal routine during my time away from the national squad,” said Abbasi. “Playing for the country is the greatest honour and I am delighted to be back. Hopefully, I’ll play a key role for the team and repay the federation’s faith in me.” The former captain added that the return of seniors will definitely bring improvement in results.
Waseem vows to justify recall
Another former captain, Waseem dismissed feeling of rustiness due to a long gap away from the side.
“The Indian league played a key role in keeping me in the loop,” said Waseem. “I attended the training camp and played 14 league matches in the event.
“I’ve also managed to maintain my fitness after the event. I feel fit and want to justify my return by performing on the European tour and utilising my experience and skills.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2012.
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