Nearly 10 months after being sacked as captain, Mohammad Imran has managed to regain the arm-band and will lead Pakistan in back-to-back events in Australia, including the Champions Trophy.
The Pakistan Hockey Federation’s (PHF) team management, led by Akhtar Rasool, announced the 18-man squad for the nine-a-side tournament in Perth – scheduled from November 22 to 25 – as well as the mega event to be played in Melbourne from December 1 to 9.
Imran was dropped earlier this year on the basis of a ‘poor performance’ in the Auckland Champions Trophy, but the defender returned after the Azlan Shah Cup and took part in the London Olympics.
Honour to lead again: Imran
Meanwhile, Imran said he will give his best to live up to the expectations of the team management.
“It’s an honour that I’ve been selected as captain again,” Imran told The Express Tribune. “The team management is aiming to build a strong team for the 2014 World Cup and my aim will be to help them achieve that goal. I’ve got a good team and I am confident we will see an improvement in the Champions Trophy.”
The defender added that he worked a lot on his fitness following the Olympics and is in a good rhythm for the upcoming assignments.
“When I was dropped, I was told that it was a result of my poor fitness. Since then, I’ve given that a lot of time and effort.”
Rookies Kashif, Ateeq included
Meanwhile, signalling the end of the road for Sohail Abbas and experienced striker Rehan Butt’s careers, the team management included rookies Mohammad Ateeq (defender) and Mohammad Kashif (forward) for the two events.
“We are looking to build the team gradually,” said manager-cum-head coach Rasool. “We’ve included two new players and this process will continue. We’re not going for shortcuts as our main aim is the next World Cup.”
While Abbas and Butt were shown the door, the team management retained Waseem Ahmed and striker Shakeel Abbasi. Goal-keepers Imran Shah and Imran Butt also found a place in the squad.
Coach Hanif Khan told The Express Tribune that the squad was selected ‘honestly’ and the shortlisted players are the ‘best available lot of players in the country’.
“The players are in good form and hopefully they will give their best,” added Hanif.
“The team management is aiming to build a strong team for the 2014 World Cup and my aim will be to help them achieve that goal. I’ve got a good team and I am confident that we will see an improvement.”
“We are looking to build the team gradually. We have included two new players
and this process will continue in the future as well. We’re not going for shortcuts as our main aim is the next World Cup.”
Imran Shah, Imran Butt, Mohammad Imran (c), Mohammad Ateeq, Syed Kashif Shah, Waseem Ahmad, Mohammad Tousiq, Fareed Ahmed, Rashid Mahmood, Muhammad Rizwan Junior, Mohammad Waqas (vc), Shafqat Rasool, Umar Bhutta, Abdul Haseem Khan, Shakeel Abbasi, Mohammad Kashif Ali, Mohammad Rizwan Senior, Ali Shan
Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2012.