LAHORE: Former Pakistan centre-forward Shahnaz Sheikh on Wednesday lashed out at the national hockey team’s Dutch coach Michel van den Heuvel for his lack of commitment and said that the Pakistan team required to show major improvement in all departments in order to excel at the London Games 2012.
Talking to Dawn after Pakistan’s dismal show at the Champions Trophy in Auckland where they lost all their group matches, Shahanaz said: “Our coach (Heuvel) was not serious for the Champions Trophy since he held just a 10-day training camp in Islamabad while the team was in need of some tough and lengthy training sessions for the high-profile event.
“The Europeans hold shorter training camps because their domestic structure is strong and hectic at the international level,” argued Shahnaz.
“But our domestic format is very weak and a player does not get enough exposure or competition to measure up to the international level. Therefore, a longer, more competitive training camp was required for the Champions Trophy preparation but it never came about.”
The ex-Olympian insisted that the presence of coach Heuvel was not making much difference to the team.
“For the Olympics, I will suggest the PHF should not bank on Heuvel because he could not prepare a strong team for the Champions Trophy although this was the real test of his skills and expertise,” said Shahnaz.
“Many former Olympians including myself had advised the PHF to hold a long-duration training camp but the federation preferred to listen to the coach,” recalled Shahnaz.
“Heuvel, obviously, has no fear of accountability, so poor Khawaja Junaid as manager will have to bear all the burden for the team’s failure in Auckland now. Heuvel, in fact, will conveniently go back home directly from Auckland and will not be facing the music for the losses.”
To a question, Shahnaz said this was not the appropriate time to do away with the senior players but emphasised that the shortcomings must be removed for a better show in the Olympics.
“The boys are talented but there is a need to increase the ratio of attacking game by 60-40 instead of 40-60,” he pointed out.
“Furthermore, the boys should also work harder on skills of foiling a rival attack and to make more effective counter-attacks.”
He further pointed out that the Pakistan players missed so many opportunities because they were not individually strong.
“Hockey is a team game and strong individuals help in making the combination a formidable one,” he said.
“Our team has had a poor goal-scoring ratio of 1-4 in the Champions Trophy and scored just four while conceding 12. You can’t beat top teams like Australia, Holland and others like this.”
Referring to Pakistan’s 1-6 loss to the Aussies, Shahnaz said some shoddy goalkeeping from Salman Akbar contributed to it. He also criticised the performance of centre-half Waseem Ahmad and said the seasoned player never really applied himself or led from the front.
About the poor domestic structure, Shahnaz pointed out the PHF which had decided to hold at least 11 tournaments in 2011, could hold only three.
“The PHF has wrongly laid emphasis on its academies instead of holding top-level tournaments and that is why we are lacking in back-ups,” he said.
Shahnaz disclosed that he had sent a six-page letter to the PHF President Qasim Zia on Dec 1 which he had received.