As expected four changes were made to the 18-member Pakistan hockey squad announced here on Saturday for the upcoming Azlan Shah Cup scheduled to be held from March 9 to 17 in Ipoh, Malaysia.Those who made it to the national team for half-line position are Tassawar Abbas and Amir Shahzad while strikers Imran junior and Irfan junior have also been inducted with Mohammad Imran being retained as captain.
Seasoned campaigner Shakeel Abbasi and Waseem Ahmad along with Rashid Mahmood and Rizwan senior have been dropped to give them rest and to test new players.
Announcing names of the team, head coach Akhtar Rasool accompanied by coach Hanif Khan and assistant coach Ajmal Lodhi told media that all the seniors were still part of the national pool of players.
It is to be noted that Shakeel was not fully fit due to his injury he received in the last Asian Champions Trophy while Waseem suffered fever when the camp started here on Feb 10 with both the players reporting to the camp commandant about their absence from the camp.
However, Rashid and Rizwan did not report to the camp since they had left for Holland to play league matches after only informing the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF).
However, it has also been decided not to take any action against them.
The head coach maintained that the new players have been inducted into the squad with the hope to find out new talented players to strengthen pool of players for future tough assignments, adding that it was an ideal time to test new players.
He further said that all the four players had proved their mettle in the last national junior hockey championship due to which they got the nod from the team management.
Akhtar said that though he did not expect a place on the podium, the team would certainly give their best to achieve the best possible results during the Azlan Shah Cup.
He claimed that the boys had done a good training in the camp and would play a decent game to maintain the winning streak.
It is also pertinent to mention that Pakistan team have recently earned a bronze medal in the Champions Trophy held in Australia and clinched the Asian Champions Trophy staged in Doha.
Also, Hanif backed the head coach over the selection of the team, saying that though critics would criticise the decision of giving chance to the new players, it was the need of the hour.
Goalkeepers: Imran Butt, Imran Shah.
Full-backs: Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Imran (captain), Muhammad Atiq.
Half-backs: Rizwan junior, Farid Ahmed, Amir Shahzad, Mohammad Tauseeq, Tasawar Abbas.
Forwards: Waqas Sharif, Shafqat Rasool, Haseem Khan, Mohammad Imran junior, Ali Shah, Mohammad Suleman, Kashif Ali and Irfan junior.
Seven standbys: Khalid Butt, Kashif Shah, Sabtain Raza, Muzammil Bhatti, Mohammad Suleman, Arslan and Dilbar.