Shakeel Abbasi, Waseem Ahmed, Rashid Mehmood and Rizwan Senior will miss out on the Azlan Shah Hockey Cup in Malaysia, as Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) coaches Akhtar Rasool and Hanif Khan announced the squad in Lahore yesterday.
According to Khan, four adjustments had been made to the team. Tasawar Abbas, Muhammad Shahzad, Muhammad Imran Senior and Muhammad Irfan Junior have been chosen to replace the seniors for the tournament which will start from March 9, while full-back Kashif Shah has been given time off to rest.
The squad was chosen based on the players’ performance in the national training camp which started on February 10 with 32 probables. Khan said the seniors were still a part of the team; however, the coaches wanted to test out the new talent in Ipoh.
“It is the only tournament where we can test the new talent before the Asia Cup and Challenge Cup in September,” Khan told The Express Tribune. “Abbasi and Waseem have their own importance, but at the moment we don’t have anyone to replace them in the bigger tournaments.
“We started short-listing the youngsters a month ago before the camp started, and now we have a good mix of players. This is the time when the younger talent can prove their worth. As far as Abbasi and others are concerned, we will need them in the future.”
Meanwhile, Khan also emphasised that other teams in the Azlan Shah Cup, including India, Australia, New Zealand, the hosts and Korea will be relying on new players, which was why Pakistan needed the younger talent to counter the opponents.
“Other teams will also use younger players in this tournament. It’s an invitational event so it’s a good time to test these players. Major players are given rest from these tournaments everywhere, so it is definitely not a snub for the seniors.
“Our goal is to have the best possible combination before the Challenge Cup.”
The team will be leaving for Ipoh on March 7, while the camp will continue for two more weeks.
It’s a good time to test the juniors: Abbasi
Abbasi felt that the pressure to lead the team will be on Muhammad Waqas and Shafqat Rasool in the presence of new players.
“It’s a good time to test the juniors, the ball is in their court,” said Abbasi. “The seniors are still working hard to win events.
“We won the Asian Champion’s Trophy last year, and then won a bronze in the Champions Trophy, so it’s time for the younger players to step up. We are all trying to have a strong team by September. We can’t afford to experiment in bigger tournaments, but the Azlan Shah Cup is a good event to test the combination.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2013.