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Newly-appointed chairman of Pakistan selection committee Islahuddin Siddiqui has said that he would soon sit with PHF high officials and the team management to decide the strategy of preparing the Green-shirts for coming events.

Talking to ‘The News’, he said that Pakistan hockey was passing through a very difficult phase. “We will have to focus on improving the performance of our team,” he added. The two-time World Cup-winning captain of Pakistan said that selection was the most important part in all sports. “There will be no compromise on merit, physical fitness, and motivation,” he said.

He said that it was noticed that players preferred professional leagues over national duty. “Thus, if players are fit and in form but are interested more in playing in the professional leagues, their inclusion will not help us,” he said.

Islah said that fortunately the PHF had revived the domestic hockey and strengthened it at the grassroots level. “It is good that there are five new teams in the domestic hockey, there are job opportunities for players. Now we need to strengthen the national team for which PHF is making all out efforts,” he said.

Pakistan have qualified for World Cup 2018, but the Green-shirts are yet to qualify for Olympics 2020. Asian Games will be the qualifying round for Olympics. Islah said that he had not seen the national championship in Sukkur, but the other members of the selection committee had done so. “Those players who were declared the best in their categories during the championship will be called for trials,” he said.

He said 2018 was a crucial year for Pakistan hockey and selection of the players on merit would be key to the formation of a strong team for the coming international events. He hoped that the new management comprising head coach Olympian Hasan Sardar, assistant coaches Saqlain and Rehan Butt would improve the performance of the team.

PHF officials say appointing Islah as the chairman of the selection committee was part of the efforts to make the team successful in 2018 in which the Green-shirts have to appear in some toughest competitions, including Asian Games, Asian Champions Trophy, Commonwealth Games and World Cup.