As the World Team Championship draws closer, Pakistan are gearing to improve on their previous campaign which saw them finish a record low 22nd place in 2011, with coach Jamshed Gul saying that their immediate aim is to reach the quarter-finals.
Pakistan will be without their best player Aamir Atlas Khan who aggravated his adductor injury on his way to becoming the Asian champion, and will be relying on the experience of Farhan Mehboob and the youthful stamina of Nasir Iqbal, Farhan Zaman and Sheikh Saqib Yousuf.
The team is seeded 14th in the event and is placed in group C alongside hosts France, Netherlands and Russia.
“The realistic target for us would be to reach the quarter-finals in the World Team Championship,” Gul told The Express Tribune.
“By saying that we’ll reach the final or bring home the title, we would be placing unnecessary burden on the players. Reaching the last-eight would be a satisfactory achievement for them. From there on, we would see how things will go.”
The 24th edition of World Squash Federation Men’s World Team Championship is being hosted by the Fédération Française de Squash and the competition will run from June 9-15 in Mulhouse, France. The top two teams from each group will go through to the last-16.
The full line-up includes Egypt, Scotland, Kuwait and Kenya in Pool A while Pool B consists of England, Canada, Colombia and Namibia.
Eight-time world champions Australia, Mexico and Switzerland are in pool D while group E members Malaysia, New Zealand, Botswana and Poland will vie for the two slots.
In pool F, Germany, the US, Ireland and Czech Republic will go head-to-head while South Africa, Hong Kong, China, Austria and Japan are in Pool G. Pool H completes the line-up with India, Finland, Argentina and Venezuela.
‘Aamir would have provided depth’
Gul said that Aamir would have provided much needed depth in the squad which is necessary for a big event.
“Aamir would have given the team an extra edge but we are unlucky that he got unfit. Now Mehboob will have to take that responsibility.
“I hope Saqib would also do well whenever he will be required during the competition but it won’t be easy to rotate the squad in such a tough event where the stakes are very high.”
‘Pakistan are better than seeding suggests’
Gul stressed that Pakistan had been given 14th seeding on the basis of the Professional Squash Association (PSA) rankings, but the team is much better than that as it has been defeating far superior seeded players in PSA and international tournaments regularly.
“I believe the PSA ranking standard does not reflect the true picture because they have not allowed top tournaments in Pakistan which is why the ranking of our players has gone down.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2013.
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