LAHORE: Already facing crunch time, Pakistan hockey has suffered yet another shock when the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) did not invite the country, for the first time, in the traditional Sultan Azlan Shah Cup being held next month.

The 26th edition of the Azlan Shah Cup is scheduled to begin on April 26. Since its inception in 1983, the Azlan Shah Cup has featured Pakistan almost regularly. The green-shirts have won the title thrice (1999, 2000, 2003) while remaining runners-up six times, the last occasion being 2011.

In its reaction to the unusual scenario, the Pakistan Hockey Federation has written a letter to the country’s High Commissioner in Malaysia urging the official to convey PHF concerns over MHC’s stunning move — of not inviting Pakistan for the event — to Malaysia’s sports ministry.

PHF secretary Shahbaz Senior said he had also written a letter to the the Asian Hockey Federation to take up the issue with the MHC.

“The [MHC] decision has disappointed us as participation in the Azlan Shah Cup was a great opportunity for us to prepare ourselves team for the World Cup qualifying round to be held in London in June,” Shahbaz said while underlining that Pakistan over the years had played a significant role in promoting the sport of field hockey in Malaysia.

As an alternative plan, Shahbaz said, the PHF would now try to schedule some matches for the national team against Argentina, Belgium, Spain and Germany.

After the PHF failed to send its team to the Junior World Cup held in India earlier this year -- mainly due to not applying for visa to meet the FIH deadline to confirm participation -- the Azlan Shah Cup is a big blow to the PHF.

Meanwhile, some PHF officials on the condition of anonymity have blamed Narinder Batra, an Indian, who won election of FIH president last year, for the cold shoulder given these days by the world hockey community to Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2017