Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) secretary Shahbaz Ahmed has admitted the Green-shirts played poorly in the four-nation tournament in Australia, but claimed that the solution lay in giving them opportunities to play tough international matches regularly.
“Only in this way will they be able to overcome their shortcomings,” he said while talking to ‘The News’ on Friday. He said that Pakistani players had not played much international hockey for about a couple of years because of which they were failing. “They need to play maximum international matches to gain experience and confidence.
“They are not accustomed to international matches’ pressure, especially near the end of match. That’s why they have lost matches despite taking lead. We will try to remove this weakness during their training camps and by giving them maximum matches. But during that preparation period ups and downs will come,” Shahbaz said.
He said PHF had identified the players’ weaknesses such as missing of goal scoring chances, failure to sustain pressure during the last phase of matches as they lost at least four matches after taking lead. “They come under pressure when experienced rivals attack aggressively,” he said.
Shahbaz said the team was also very poor in penalty corners. Ahmed said categorically that there was no permanent place for any player in the team. “They have to improve their skills, form, fitness. They must have hunger for success,” said the former captain.
This year the national championship would be held in Sukkur in December, he said. “It will be an important event as far as selection in the senior team for coming international events is concerned.
“The players who perform well and show their form, fitness and skills will definitely be called up to the national team’s camp,” said the PHF secretary. “We have formed a pool of around 45 players during the last two years through domestic competitions,” he said.
He said that 2018 would be a crucial year when doors of international hockey would be opened in the country. “A World XI will visit Pakistan to play three matches in January. The Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Champions Trophy, Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey tournament, and World Cup, are all significant events,” he said.
He said that when the current management of PHF took charge, there was chaos. “First we concentrated on developing infrastructure for domestic hockey so that our national game which had been restricted to a few departmental teams and a few tournaments could attract young blood.
“But now the situation is far better. The national game is being played continuously in all its units. There are competitions of various age categories and number of ranking tournaments are being regularly organised. A number of players are coming to play hockey. There are now scores of district associations holding hockey activities. This is a turnaround as there was a time when hockey had been confined to a few cities of the country.
“The national championship will be organised in Sukkur in December. PHF’s first-ever national school championship will be played in Khairpur,” Ahmed mentioned. The PHF secretary mentioned that PHF had sent the under-18 team to participate in Australia’s national under-18 championship to fill the gap between Pakistan and strong hockey-playing countries. The team managed to win the championship.
“Those boys will be the future of Pakistan. We have to be patient. But we will not just wait for them. We are working with the seniors as well,” he said. He said that preparation for World XI’s visit to Pakistan and for the Hall of Fame ceremony would be finalised by the end of this month. He said the PHF would go for bilateral series after the World XI’s visit. PHF would soon invite other countries to play series with Pakistan, Shahbaz said.