ISLAMABAD: Pakistan hockey team got a new captain for the forthcoming Azlan Shah Cup here on Thursday as chief selector Hanif Khan announced an 18-member squad for the Malaysian event.
Mohammad Imran, 21, who represents the Army team in national circuit, was named to lead Pakistan in the event which commences in Ipoh on May 5.
“I am confident of my team doing well in the tournament since I have seasoned seniors including Sohail Abbas, Rehan Butt, Kashif Abbasi, Waseem Ahmed with me as well as a number talented young players who are the ‘generation next’ of Pakistan hockey,” Imran told Dawn minutes after the selectors announced the squad.
“We believe that this is the best combination selected for the event and hopefully they will perform well,” former Olympian and chief selector Hanif said while addressing the media at the Naseer Bunda Hockey Stadium.
However, Pakistan’s defence will definitely miss former skipper Zeeshan Ashraf who has now been replaced with budding youngster Syed Kashif Shah. “Kashif is the man who will be defending our half during the matches and he is a good replacement for Zeeshan,” insisted Hanif.
Though Zeeshan has been deliberately kept out of the team, Hanif said the former captain had himself opted out of the event.
“We don’t need a player who is himself not willing to play the game enthusiastically. We need someone who appears in trials and proves his worth for the country.”
Commenting on the omission of right-in Shafqat Rasool, the chief selector added: “Shafqat is unfit and unwell, so we replaced him with another youngster.”
The Dutch coach Michel van den Heuvel watched from the stands as the players took the field for a training match which was also witnessed by the selectors along with key Pakistan Hockey Federation officials. Squad: Goalkeeper: Imran Shah. Fullbacks: Mohammad Imran (captain), Kashif Shah, Sohail Abbas.
Halfbacks: Mohammad Rizwan Jr, Waseem Ahmed, Mohammad Rashid, Fareed Ahmed, Mohammad Tousiq, Mohammad Rizwan Sr.
Forwards: Shakeel Abbasi (vice-captain), Waqas Sharif, Rehan Butt, Mohammad Zubair, Mohammad Imran Jr, Abdul Haseem Khan, Waqas Akbar, Umar Bhutta.
Officials: Khawaja Junaid (manager), Michel Van Den Heuvel (coach), Shahid Ali Khan and Ajmal Khan Lodhi (assistant coaches), Faiz-ur-Rehman (physio) and Nadeem Khan Lodhi (video analyst).