Pakistan selectors Sunday effected a wholesale change in the country’s hockey squad for the FIH Pro-League series beginning next month by dropping 11 players, including captain Muhammad Rizwan, who were part of the team’s disastrous campaign in the recent World Cup. After trials held in Islamabad, chief selector Islahuddin Siddiqui announced Sunday that captain Muhammad Rizwan (Sr) and 10 other players, mostly seniors, were dropped from the team.
Midfielder Ali Shan will lead the new-look 18-member Pakistan squad for the Pro-League series in Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and European countries in the coming six months. The 25-year-old has so far represented the country in 135 international matches.
Pakistan had finished 11th without winning a single match at the 16-nation World Cup held in Bhubaneswar during November-December last year. Then manager Hasan Sardar had held the senior players responsible for the team’s miserable show in the mega event. Interestingly, the participation of Pakistan in the Pro-League series is still yet not certain due to financial issues.
Serious doubts remain over whether they will be able to fly to Argentina and then to Australia and New Zealand as the sports minister has made it clear that to get more grants the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has to first submit a comprehensive plan to the government.
The PHF has asked for another grant of 120 million rupees to cover the expenses of sending the team to the Pro-League matches and for allowances of players and officials. Islahuddin said the players dropped include Mazhar Abbas, Irfan Senior, Mohammad Tauseeq Arshad, Rashid Mahmood, Ajaz Ahmed, Ammad Shakeel Butt, Irfan Junior, Rizwan Senior, Tasawwar Abbas, Umar Bhutta and Mohammad Zubair.
Goalkeeper Imran Butt had already announced retirement after the 2018 World Cup. The new faces named in the national team include Waqar Ahmed, Amjad Ali (both goalkeepers), Rizwan Ali, Amjad Ali Khan, Moin Shakeel, Azfar Yaqoob, Rana Waheed, Akmal Hussain, Atiq Arshad.
The chief selector said the changes were necessary to build a new Pakistan squad with the Olympics in mind. The Pro-League matches featuring nine countries — Belgium, Australia, Netherlands, Argentina, Germany, England, New Zealand, Spain and Pakistan — also serves as a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with the four best teams qualifying for the Olympic qualification matches to be staged during 2020. Pakistan open their Pro-League campaign with back-to-back matches against Argentina on February 2 and 3 in the central Argentinian city of Cordoba.
Waqar Ahmed, Amjad Ali, Aleem Bilal, Mubashar Ali, Rizwan Ali, Amjad Ali Khan, Abu Bakar Mahmood, Moin Shakeel, Azfar Yaqoob, Ali Shan (captain), Faisal Qadir, Atif Mushtaq, Atiq Arshad, Rana Waheed, Junaid Manzoor, Ghazanfar Ali, Ali Aziz, Shan Irshad.
Standbys: Salman Razzaq, Adeel Lateef, Rana Sohail, Mohammad Qamar, Akmal Hussain, Taimour Malik, Samiullah, Emmaduddin.
Officials: Saeed Khan (head coach-cum-manager); Danish Kaleem, Rehan Butt (coaches).