Pakistan hockey captain hopeful of etching name in Champions Trophy history

Rizwan Seniors says team will try their best to win last-ever edition of tournament


Nabil Tahir May 31, 2018
ONLY THE BEST SURVIVE: Pakistan hockey team will fly to Netherlands for the third phase of their training camp where the final 18-member squad will be announced for the Champions Trophy. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: Pakistan hockey team captain Muhammad Rizwan Senior is eyeing victory in the 2018 edition of the Champions Trophy to be held at Breda in Netherlands from June 23 to July 1.

A 22-member squad for the event was announced by chief selector Islahuddin Siddiqui on Thursday after day-long trials, after which Rizwan said they want to etch their name in the history books by winning the last-ever Champions Trophy.

“We have working hard since the past month and are focusing on fitness too. We all want to win this edition of the Champions Trophy so that Pakistan becomes the inaugural and the last winners of the title,” Rizwan told The Express Tribune.

Islahuddin was the captain of the Pakistan side that won the inaugural Champions Trophy and Rizwan says the former naming him the captain places a big responsibility on his shoulders.

“Our chief selector is the one who led team Pakistan to victory in the first edition and now he has selected me to lead the team in the last edition; I don’t want to disappoint anyone,” he said. “We will be facing the top five teams of the world, but we are confident to give them a tough time.”

In the first phase of the team’s training for the tournament in Abbottabad, the focus was set on fitness. Moving on to the second phase at the Abdul Sattar Edhi Hockey Stadium, team worked on their game play.

The team will fly to Netherlands for the third phase of the camp where the final 18-member squad will be announced for the Champions Trophy.

“Our fitness level has become better,” said Rizwan. “We have been facing fitness issues in the recent international tournaments and it has been one of the factors affecting our performances. Our new coach and fitness trainer has worked on each player to help them attain peak fitness.”

Meanwhile, team manager Hassan Sardar revealed that Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has hired a penalty corner and a goalkeeping coach in Netherlands.

“The team in their last phase will be focused on specialisation areas like forward play, penalty corners and goalkeeping,” said Sardar. “We have a penalty corner specialist Mubashir Ali who has been performing well in the recent past but we have also included experienced Aleem Bilal to strengthen our goal scoring. We have seen that forwards are unable to convert moves into goals, so that is where we will be working in the last phase.”

Sardar added that Pakistan are scheduled to play five practice games before the actual tournament — three against Austria, one against the Netherlands and two against local teams.

Pakistan’s 22-man squad

Mohammad Rizwan Senior (c), Imran Butt, Mazhar Abbas, Amjad Ali, Irfan Senior, Mubashir Ali, Aleem Bilal, Ammad Shakeel Butt, Touseeq Arshad, Rashid Ali, Tasawwar Abbas, Rizwan Jr, Abu Bakar, Irfan Jr, Arsalan Qadir, Umar Bhutta, Rizwan Sr, Shafqat Rasool, Ali Shan, Azfar Yaqoob, Aijaz and Rana Sohail.

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