Pakistan look for a sparkling finish


LAHORE: The Pakistan Hockey Federation maintains that it has given the senior members of the team the one last chance to deliver and leave the arena on a high note.
But the PHF and its selectors have ostensibly shown faith in these tried, tested and failed many times over seniors because it believes that their presence would enhance the team’s prospects in the Asian Games, which have already rolled into action from Nov. 12 and would continue until Nov. 27 at Guangzhou, thus relieving some of the pressure and opprobrium that is being brought to bear on the PHF.
Although PHF secretary Asif Bajwa has declined to comment on the formation of the team for the Asian Games, citing that this is the domain of the selection committee.
However, being a former Olympian who has seen the team combinations at training at the camp in Islamabad, Bajwa thinks that the it has the potential, provided it clicked. “If it strikes form, and does not relax or relent at critical moments, a podium spot is very much likely”, so said Bajwa.
But chief selector Hanif Khan has made it clear that he is looking beyond the seniors, whether they play a pivotal role or fail at the Asian Games.
In the backdrop of their getting a wooden spoon in the World Cup and then being dumped out of the recent Commonwealth Games, the Pakistanis would be under enormous pressure regardless of what Bajwa or Hanif think. But the PHF is not bothered about the recent results.
“The recent setbacks do not count; that is in the past and we need to move forward. Although I have nothing to do with the selection of the team but I think the presence of seniors in the team would provide experience and confidence, which is essential to perform at the highest level”.
He said that the return of two senior players, Sohail Abbas and Salman Akbar, will boost their team’s chances of regaining the Asian Games.
“The only thing to look into is how the team tackles South Korea because I believe it’s the only team that could spring a surprise on us and would surely have done a lot of hard work to retain the title.
“As of India, the conditions would be entirely different [than at the Commonwealth Games]. No home crowd, no home ground to pressure the Pakistan team”, said Bajwa. The crunch game between Pakistan and India is slated for October 20
Pakistan won the last of their seven Asian Games gold medals in Beijing in 1990 and since since the 1994 World Cup in Sydney has not won any major title.
“Our main target after we took over was the Asian Games 2010 and looking at the situation we do not have anything to lose. We need to win to move forward”, asserted Bajwa.
Pakistan is in the Group B with India, Japan, Hong Kong and Bangladesh and the added significance is that the winner or possibly the runner-up of the event as well would earn a place at the 2010 Olympics. The other group comprises South Korea, China, Malaysia, Oman and Singapore.
Bajwa concluded with views that the team has been asked to play to its potential and opt for gold medal. “We believe if the team plays to its strength, they would surely win the Asian title once again.”
One hopes that his optimism and faith reflects in performance on the field so that the pervading pall of gloom in hockey could lift perceptibly.