KARACHI: Seasoned defender Mohammad Imran has hailed Pakistan Hockey Federation’s (PHF) decision to include senior players for Pakistan’s campaign in the lead up to this year’s London Olympics.
Imran, who recently captained the side, was dropped for the Azlan Shah Cup, a move which surprised and irked many veterans of the game.
But PHF’s sudden change of heart has not surprised the player who is also a penalty corner specialist, though not in the same mould as Sohail Abbas.
Pakistan’s dismal performance at the seven-nation Azlan Shah Cup where they finished last could be the reason why Imran has been recalled. The PHF also let off several other experienced players who appeared in the unsanctioned World Hockey Series only with fines after the country’s disastrous outing in the tournament in Malaysia.
But Imran says there was never any doubt that he would be called back.
“I always knew they’ll call me back,” Imran told a local newspaper.
“I always felt the team needs experience for the Olympics. We cannot rely only on young talent considering the tough opposition in the major event. This is why I continued training since the day I was overlooked. I am ready and fit to play international hockey as I was during my captaincy.”
“The PHF’s decision of recalling seniors must be hailed because it is in the team’s interest. All I am looking forward to is to serve my country.”
The defender also believes his inclusion in the side will reduce pressure on captain Abbas.
Pakistan missed as many as 19 penalty-corner chances, while converting just two as the world’s leading goal-scorer Abbas was seen struggling in the Azlan Shah Cup.
“I am confident this conversion rate will improve. Secondly, my return will reduce pressure on the captain like it has in the past.”
Pakistan will undertake a tour of Europe from June 11-15 where apart from Belgium, they will meet European giants Germany and the Netherlands.
The seasoned campaigner hoped the experience of playing on blue turf will not be an issue.
“The Europe tour will give us good practice ahead of the Olympics.”