The Pakistan Hockey Federation’s (PHF) decision to omit Rehan Butt and Salman Akbar from the Asian Champions Trophy squad is a result of disciplinary action after the duo breached the code of conduct on the Europe tour.
The federation named a 26-man squad for the training camp, after which 18 will be selected for the event, discarding the duo as well as penalty-corner specialist Sohail Abbas who was not named as he failed to satisfy the officials with his fitness.
While the PHF, on record, omitted the three and asked them to ‘rest’, an official confirmed that Butt and Akbar, as well as three other junior players, had breached the code of conduct in an ‘alcohol-related incident’ and that is why they have not been named.
As many as four junior players were fined $1,000 while Akbar was released from the touring party straight away. The touring team management had decided to send him back straight after his breach but due to logistic problems in finding a replacement, he was retained.
Butt side-steps the truth
Following his omission, however, Butt refused to link the breach to his omission and instead termed it an ideal time to take a break.
“I actually needed rest and in my absence many juniors will have a chance to play,” Butt told reporters. “Although I failed to score on the Europe tour, I am satisfied with my performance and that I will regain my form after some rest.
“Seniors are always needed but juniors must also be given chances to prove themselves as they are our future.”
Abbas’ fitness a concern
Abbas’ omission, though, raises questions about his future with PHF officials keeping a vigilant eye on the world-record holder. PHF’s policy, it seems, is to keep Abbas for the important tournaments while resting him for others.
Although the PHF is currently going through a transition process, it is still keeping its doors open for the seniors provided they prove their fitness. The PHF Secretary Asif Bajwa maintained that the federation is dealing with the player on equal terms as there is no concept of seniors or juniors in the squad.
“You can’t rule out anyone as the team is built on that combination,” said Bajwa. “We have lined up various players as backups from the juniors’ group and we’ll accommodate them with a rotation policy.
“Every player has to go one day and another will replace him but as long as they’re fit, the seniors are welcome.”
Pakistan’s training camp will take place in Lahore from August 10.
“I actually needed rest and in my absence many junior players will have a chance to play. Although I failed to score on the Europe tour, I am satisfied with my overall performance and believe that with some rest, I will be able to regain my form.”
“Obviously every player has to go one day and another will come to replace him but as long as they’re fit and giving their best, the seniors are always welcome. Discipline is a key to success and every player must follow it strictly.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2011.