Pakistan set to begin Sultan Azlan Shah Cup without key players

Pakistan national hockey team, under the leadership of Muhammad Umar Bhutta, is keen on putting up a good show during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, which begins tomorrow.

The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) was forced to send a young squad for the tournament after nine players, which included star players like Ammad Butt, Hammad Anjum, Moeen Shakeel and Rizwan Ali, decided against joining the training camp last month.

According to sources, lucrative contracts in England league hockey, as compared to those offered by the PHF, and reservations with the Pakistan team coaching staff were among the reasons behind players’ decision to move abroad.

“Our team will give their 100 per cent on the field in order to get some points and improve our rankings. It won’t be easy since around ten players will debut for us in the tournament but it will give the youngsters international exposure,” Bhutta told from Malaysia on Monday.

“We will miss our senior players because we had been playing together for around one year. If we had continued with the same squad, it would have been beneficial for us, not only in this tournament, but in the Asian Games as well,” he added.

The Pakistan skipper also lauded the changes in the PHF management and especially the appointment of Secretary Haider Hussain.

“We have seen a positive change since Haider bhai’s arrival. Our dues have been cleared in advance and we are also once again getting daily allowance of 150 dollars,” he said.

Pakistan hockey team’s opening match in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is against South Africa on Tuesday, November 1.

Six teams, Pakistan, South Africa, Korea, Malaysia, Japan and Egypt, are participating in the tournament with the top two on the table set to play the final on November 10.

All the teams, apart from Egypt in 20th place, are ranked above Pakistan, 18, in the FIH Men’s Rankings.

Pakistan’s complete schedule (timings in PST)

November 1 — South Africa — 3pm

November 2 — Malaysia — 5pm

November 4 – Japan — 1pm

November 5 — Korea — 1pm

November 7 — Egypt — 3pm

November 9 — 3rd to 6th place matches — 3pm onwards

November 10 — Final — 5pm

Pakistan squad

Muhammad Umar Bhutta (c), Abdullah Ishtiaq, Akmal Hussain, Mohammad Abdullah, Sufyan, Arbaaz Ahmed, Aqeel, Ehtsham, Murtaza Yaqoob, Rana Abdul Waheed, Rooman Khan, Hanan Shahid, Junaid Manzoor, Arshad Liaquat, Afraz, Shahzaib Khan, Usama Bashir and Mohammad Imran.

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