LAHORE: While only one change was made in the national squad named on Wednesday for the hockey World Cup, a highly-ambitious chief selector Islahuddin Siddiqui claimed Pakistan — which could not even qualify for the 2014 edition and presently look quite frail to make any major upset at the mega event — were “capable of winning” the global title.
The 14th edition of the World Cup — featuring teams from 16 nations divided into four pools — is being staged in the Indian city of Bhubaneswar from Nov 28 to Dec 16.
While acknowledging the fact that Pakistan’s pool in the presence of Germany and the Netherlands was very tough, Islahuddin reckoned, “Our players on a given day have the ability to stun any side of the world”.
Squad with one change named for mega event
The squad was named after the two-day trials held here at the National Hockey Stadium. The trials were watched by Islahuddin along with selection committee members Ayaz Mahmood, Qasim Khan and Musaddiq Hussain.
Pakistan, once the world hockey powerhouse which won the World Cup for four times, has seen its lowest times during the past two decades or so. So alarming has been their decline that the green-shirts, who last clinched the World Cup back in 1994 at Sydney, failed to even qualify for the 2014 World Cup staged in The Hague, Netherlands.
Their performance was pathetic at the 2006 World Cup held in Monchengladbach, Germany where they finished a poor sixth, while the 2010 edition, organised in New Delhi, saw Pakistan drop to their worst-ever performance in a World Cup when they ended last in the 12-team contest.
However, despite Pakistan’s extremely embarrassing record in World Cups and other major international events like Olympics and Champions Trophy during the past many years, the chief selector sounded confident about the team’s show in Bhubaneswar.
“Yes, this team is quite capable of winning the World Cup, as nothing is impossible if the will is there,” Islahuddin, who was part of Pakistan’s triumphant World Cup squads in 1971 and 1978, said while announcing the squad here during a press conference.
Noting that two teams from each of the four pools will qualify for the quarter-finals, Islahuddin said every team had to win at least two matches, out of three, to reach the next round.
Announcing the squad, Islahuddin said Rashid Mahmood replacing Rizwan Junior is the only change in the squad. The remaining 17 players are the same who were part of the squad that participated in last month’s Asian Champions Trophy staged in Muscat where Pakistan and arch-rivals India were declared joint winners after the final was abandoned due to heavy rain.
Rashid, 31, missed the Asian Champions Trophy as he was playing league hockey abroad. However, he reported at the training camp and earned the place for the mega event.
“Rashid is our major player and with his induction the morale of the Asian Champions Tropy-winning team has further increased giving hopes for an improved performance in the World Cup,” Islahuddin said.
“The boys realise the importance of the World Cup and the credentials required for it. They are eager to give their best to earn big name, irrespective of the financial issues they are facing.”
Mohammad Rizwan Senior and Ammad Shakeel Butt have been retained as captain and vice-captain, respectively.
Meanwhile answering a question, Islahuddin said all the dues of the players would be cleared before their departure to India, adding “they should not worry about it”.
Due to financial constraints, the PHF is yet to clear the players’ dues of the Asian Champions Trophy and of the ongoing training camp. The government has not released any grant to address the burning issue despite appeals from the cash-strapped federation which ultimately rescued itself recently — at least for now — after striking a sponsorship deal with a private company.
The Pakistan squad is likely to leave for India on Nov 22 or 23 after getting visa, the process for which is currently ongoing.
Squad: Imran Butt, Mazhar Abbas (goalkeepers); Mohammad Irfan Senior, Aleem Bilal, Mubashar Ali, Mohammad Tauseeq Arshad, Tasawwar Abbas, Rashid Mahmood, Ajaz Ahmed, Ammad Shakeel Butt (vice-captain), Mohammad Irfan Junior, Mohammad Rizwan Senior (captain), Ali Shan, Faisal Qadir, Abubakr Mahmood, Umar Bhutta, Mohammad Atiq Arshad, Mohammad Zubair
Officials:Hasan Sardar (manager); Tauqeer Dar (head coach); Rehan Butt, Danish Kaleem (coaches); Nadeem Lodhi (video analyst); Waqas Mehmood (physiotherapist)
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2018