Sohail Abbas will lead the Greenshirts at this year’s London Olympics as the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) decided to retain the penalty-corner specialist as captain while announcing the squad for the mega event.
Amid the return of senior players, confusion surrounded the appointment of the captain but the PHF decided to stick to Sohail, who led the team at the Azlan Shah Cup and the Europe tour. The PHF also included former captains Shakeel Abbasi, Mohammad Imran, Rehan Butt and Waseem Ahmed in the 20-man squad. The PHF will now shortlist the members to 18 in a week’s time.
Waqas Sharif will be Sohail’s deputy despite the presence of the senior players.
Akbar fails to find a place
However, experienced goal-keeper Salman Akbar was named among the standby options after being recalled in the preliminary squad.
The selection committee, headed by Hanif Khan, announced the team following trials in Abbottabad. Akbar was overlooked after the committee decided to rely on young goal-keepers — Imran Shah and Imran Butt.
Blend of experience and youth
Pakistan coach Khwaja Junaid termed the team as a mixture of talented junior and experienced players, saying the combination will increase Pakistan’s chances of reaching the podium.
“The selection was made after assessing various aspects,” Junaid told The Express Tribune. “Recent performances and their forms and fitness were assessed. The players who fulfilled the criteria were selected. The squad is a combination of junior and senior players and the return of experienced members is a good sign.”
Commenting on Akbar’s snub, Junaid said the other selected goal keepers deserved the place more. “Akbar failed to meet the required level of selection. There was tight competition in which Shah and Butt emerged on top.”
He added that Sohail was retained as captain following an impressive run in Europe.
“Sohail was impressive in Europe after the Azlan Shah Cup. He has also been retained to maintain continuity as changing a captain just before the Olympics could have caused a negative impact. “
Meanwhile, team manager Akhtar Rasool called for support ahead of the mega event. “I will ask the critics to put forward their recommendations. Their advice will be considered for the team’s betterment.”
Shahnaz slams ‘flawed selection’
However, criticism already started with Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh slamming the PHF. “I see many blunders,” said the legendary player. “Sohail didn’t play at the 2008 Olympics and now he’s in the team. The selectors should have opted for penalty-corner expert Imran Warsi who is in very good form.” Shahnaz added that the team’s average age after the return of the seniors increased and this would hamper Pakistan’s chances.
S Abbas, I Shah, I Butt, M Imran, K Shah, M Irfan, Rizwan Junior, F Ahmed, R Mehmood, M Tauseeq, W Ahmed, W Sharif, U Bhutta, H Khan, S Abbasi, M Zubair, Rizwan Senior, S Rasool, R Butt, A Shan
“Sohail has been retained to maintain continuity as changing a captain just before the Olympics could have caused a negative impact. The squad is a combination of junior and senior players and the mixture will be a good combination.”
“I see many blunders in team selection. Sohail didn’t play at the 2008 Olympics and now he’s in the team. The selectors should have opted for penalty-corner expert Imran Warsi who is in very good form.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2012.
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