KARACHI, Feb 17: Pakistan hockey selectors on Friday snubbed national team captain and fullback Mohammad Imran, midfielder Waseem Ahmad and goalkeeper Salman Akbar while realling forward Rehan Butt for the first phase of the training camp in preparation for this year’s Olympic Games.
The first phase of the camp will be held at National Hockey Stadium in Lahore from Feb 27 to March 15.
Apart from being missing from the list of 24 probables announced for the initial camp, the three axed players were also ignored for the performance-based central contracts announced in categories ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ for the period of Jan 1 to March 31.
“I just learnt about my ouster from TV,” said a shocked Imran when contacted by Dawn. “I don’t know how they could do this to me without even giving a solid reason for my axing,” he said.
Imran, who captained the national team during the past two years, added: “I have tried calling our federation president Qasim Zia Sahab and Secretary Asif Bajwa, too, but their phones are off. Anyway, I intend finding out what I did wrong when the PHF office opens on Monday morning.’
Meanwhile, chief selector Olympian Hanif Khan had an explanation ready for his drastic actions: “You may have become big names in hockey but that doesn’t get you in the team. It is your performance that should speak for itself and open doors for you in the national side and I’m sorry to say that none of these senior players showed any spark in the 59th National Hockey Championship,” he asserted.
Imran, however, contested Hanif’s opinion. “I know I performed well during the National Hockey Championship. I don’t understand how the selectors could discard me like that.”
In contrast, forward Rehan Butt appeared quite happy on his inclusion for the training phase and said: “I did my best playing for Wapda during the recently-concluded National Hockey Championship and left the rest to God. I’m glad the selectors think that I’m worthy enough to be called for camp and be awarded the top category contract.”
Rehan along with drag flicker Sohail Abbas, Fareed Ahmed, Rashid Mahmood, Shakeel Abbasi, Waqas Sharif are in category ‘A’ of the central contracts while five players namely, Imran Shah, Mohammad Irfan, Rizwan Sr, Abdul Haseem Khan and Shafqat Rasool are in category ‘B’.
Kashif Shah, Mohammad Tousiq, Mohammad Zubair, Ali Shan, Rizwan Jr and Umar Bhutta are in category ‘C’.
Apart from them, six juniors, Mazhar Abbas, Kashif Javed, Tasawwar Abbas, Mohammad Irfan, Ahmad Butt and Mohammad Suleman, will be getting a stipend from the PHF.
Rehan, who had earlier considered playing for the notorious World Series of Hockey (WSH) in India, is now having second thoughts about going there.
“Well, my main focus is doing my best for my country now,” said the 32-year-old forward.
“I will only think about playing for the Indian league if the PHF and FIH permit it. It may happen, too, as the Delhi High Court has given Indian players permission to feature in the WSH,” Rehan continued.
Probables: Goalkeepers: Imran Butt, Imran Shah and Mazhar Abbas.
Fullbacks: Sohail Abbas, Kashif Shah, Ihsan Ullah, Mohammad Irfan and Amir Shahzad.
Halfbacks: Rizwan Jr, Fareed Ahmad, Rashid Mahmood, Mohammad Tousiq, Kashif Javed, Tasawwar Abbas and Ammad Butt.
Forwards: Waqas Sharif, Shakeel Abbasi, Abdul Haseem Khan, Mohammad Rizwan Sr, Mohammad Zubair, Ali Shan, Shafqat Rasool, Mohamamd Umar Bhutta, Shabbir Khan, Mohammad Irfan Jr, Mohammad Suleman and Rehan Butt.
Our Lahore Sports Reporter adds: Hanif Khan furher said: “The trio of Salman, Waseem and Imran could not be considered for the selection as Pakistan coach Michel van den Heuvel was not satisfied with their performances in the last Champions Trophy.
“However, the national selection committee watched the performance of Rehan Butt in the recently concluded national championship and found it satisfactory, hence, it has included him in the list of probables.”
Hanif further said the camp training would continue till March 15 and then the Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia would provide a fine opportunity to the players to test their potential.