Waheed, Abdullah return negative Covid tests, set to feature in CWG opener

Published July 29, 2022
BIRMINGHAM: Britain’s Prince Charles meets with athletes and members from Pakistan during a visit to the Athletes Village at the University of Birmingham on Thursday.—AFP
BIRMINGHAM: Britain’s Prince Charles meets with athletes and members from Pakistan during a visit to the Athletes Village at the University of Birmingham on Thursday.—AFP

BIRMINGHAM: Pakistan’s hockey team was on Thursday boosted by the return of key players Rana Abdul Waheed and goalkeeper Mohammad Abdullah after they tested negative for Covid-19 with manager Sameer Hussain confirming that they were in line to feature against South Africa in their Commonwealth Games opener on Saturday.

The duo had tested positive upon the team’s arrival in Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games, which were due to open later on Thursday. They were put in isolation and after every four hours their CT values was being monitored.

“They have tested negative and joined the gym today … they will be part of the team for our opening match,” Sameer told APP.

Pakistan, who are placed in Pool ‘A’, are due to face New Zealand on Sunday in their second match before taking on Scotland on Aug 3 and rounding off their first-stage campaign against six-time champions Australia.

Having failed to qualify for next year’s World Cup and placed 18th in the world rankings, Sameer said he was happy with Pakistan’s underdog status and insisted the first goal was to qualify for the semi-finals after finishing among the top two in their pool.

“We might be the lowest-ranked team in our group but I feel we have a highly-talented bunch of players, who on their day can spring a surprise,” the former Olympian said.

“We didn’t play a lot of international hockey in recent years due to Covid-19 and other issues which is why our ranking has suffered. But we have a young squad with most of the players among those who made their debuts at the Asia Cup.”

Pakistan failed to secure a top-four finish at the Asia Cup, missing out on the chance to qualify for the World Cup but Sameer reckons a good show at the Commonwealth Games would help improve the team’s ranking.

“Our focus is to advance to the semi-finals,” he said. “We’ve analysed videos of other teams in our pool and have planned accordingly. We know our grey areas and have worked on them.

“It is heartening that we have a pretty aggressive forward line, which has the ability to test any strong defence. We are also a solid defensive unit so it will be interesting to see how our young guns implement our plans.”

Pakistan have never won a hockey gold at the Commonwealth Games with their best-placed finish coming at the 2006 edition when they got silver.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2022

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