Pakistani selectors have made just one change to the national hockey squad for the forthcoming World Cup in Bhubaneswar, with Mohammad Rizwan Sr leading the side. Chief selector Islahuddin Siddiqui while announcing the squad said that the experienced Rashid Mehmood had replaced Rizwan junior in the squad that recently played in the Asian Champions Trophy in Muscat and shared the title with India. “Rashid was playing overseas in professional league when the Asian Champions Trophy was held but now he is available and he is one of our most experienced and best midfielders,” Islahuddin said.
The former Olympian is also confident that with a little bit of luck Pakistan is fully capable of winning the World Cup in India. Islahuddin himself was part of the Pakistan team that won the 1971 and 78 World Cups but Pakistan’s last World Cup title came way back in 1994 at Sydney. Since then Pakistan has fared poorly in World Cups and didn’t even qualify for the 2014 edition and finished last in the World Cup held in New Delhi in 2010.
But Islahuddin noted that the team included some senior players and the players had been playing as a unit for a while now. “The Asian Champions Trophy performance has also come as a boost and my effort is to see these players go to India after having all their dues cleared by the Pakistan Hockey Federation so that there is no burden on their minds,” he said. The Pakistan squad has been selected after two-day trials in Lahore. The 14th edition of the World Cup, featuring teams from 16 nations divided into four pools, is being staged in the Indian city of Bhubaneswar from Nov 28 to Dec 16.
The chief selector acknowledged that Pakistan’s pool in the presence of Germany and the Netherlands is very tough, but insisted, “Our players on a given day have the ability to stun any side of the world.”
Mohammad Rizwan Senior and Ammad Shakeel Butt have been retained as captain and vice-captain, respectively. The Pakistan squad is likely to leave for India on Nov 22 or 23 after getting visa, the process for which is currently ongoing.
Squad: Imran Butt, Mazhar Abbas (goalkeepers); Mohammad Irfan Senior, Aleem Bilal, Mubashar Ali, Mohammad Tauseeq Arshad, Tasawwar Abbas, Rashid Mahmood, Ajaz Ahmed, Ammad Shakeel Butt (vice-captain), Mohammad Irfan Junior, Mohammad Rizwan Senior (captain), Ali Shan, Faisal Qadir, Abubakr Mahmood, Umar Bhutta, Mohammad Atiq Arshad, Mohammad Zubair
Officials: Hasan Sardar (manager); Tauqeer Dar (head coach); Rehan Butt, Danish Kaleem (coaches); Nadeem Lodhi (video analyst); Waqas Mehmood (physiotherapist).