Shahbaz on the attack as he claims players lack fitness and confidence
HAS former Pakistan captain Shahbaz Ahmad touched a raw nerve by saying that contemporary players lack the passion for success that took the green shirts to glory?
Occupying the important position as Secretary of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), Shahbaz has ruffled many a feathers within the hockey fraternity through his comments that questioned the attitude of current players compared to those who donned the famous- green shirts in the glory days of a bygone era.
“There was a time when the hockey world used to cherish our skills with the stick and grip over the ball,” says Shahbaz, under whose captaincy Pakistan won the 1994 World Cup in Sydney.
That title in Sydney remains the last podium finish for Pakistan in a global event.
The best performance thereafter was making the semi-finals of the Olympics in 2000 – also in Sydney – but the situation has got so bad of late that Pakistan did not feature in the line-up for the 2014 World Cup or the 2016 Olympic Games.
It was in the wake of the disastrous results of the past few years that the national federation was overhauled and Shahbaz was given the secretary’s post.
“I played hockey for two decades. The wrist work of the green shirts was envied and the goal was to take the country to the top of the podium,” says Shahbaz.
The PHF secretary says he sees glimpses of the same qualities in the current players, but not the same levels of confidence and commitment.
“I see the same skills and talent today in our players, but they lack fitness, confidence and commitment,” says Shahbaz, further emphasising that nowadays the players give priority to sub-standard leagues as opposed to the national squad’s preparations and even their international commitments.
Shahbaz expresses his disappointment that Pakistan’s officials allowed the domestic standards to fall even as the other nations improved by leaps and bounds. He feels this caused Pakistan hockey’s decline and a huge gap with international standards.
“There’s a lot of work to do and it has to start at the grassroots,” says Shahbaz. “We’re investing in our Under 18 and Under 16 teams. But I cannot claim the green shirts will be jumping to the top of the charts anytime soon.”
Pakistan suffered a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Australia in a Test series
Down Under, with all the matches being played in Darwin.
Coming in the wake of Pakistan’s morale-boosting 2-1 series triumph in New Zealand with two games drawn, the series against Australia was expected to be a tougher test for Pakistan’s team with several young players on their maiden tour with the senior squad.
Outplayed 6-1 in the first Test, Pakistan became more competitive as the series went on. but Australia continued the winning spree by prevail- ing 3-0 and 2-0 in the next two Test matches.
Pakistan scored three times in the fourth and final Test match, but the Australians fired five in response to secure victory by two goals and complete an all-win series.
However, Australia coach was impressed by Pakistan’s fourth-Test show.
“They had a lot of run in their legs, which challenged us in deep defence. They brought the game alive,” he said.
Two field goals from Abu Mahmood were the high- light for Pakistan in the final Test, while one strike came from Muhammad Umar Bhutta.
Indian striker S.V. Sunil and Japan’s Hazuki Nagai have been adjudged the continent’s most outstanding players of 2016 by the Asian Hockey Federation, who announced their awards during their Congress in Oman’s capital of Muscat.
The AHF Player Awards recognise the players in two categories for men and women.
Sunil was rewarded as the most outstanding male player from an Asian countries, while Nagai got the women’s award.
The most promising male player of Asia was also an Indian, young penalty flicker Harmanpreet Singh.
Harmanpreet’s fine show in last year’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup secured him selection for the 2016 Champions’ Trophy in London, where India advanced to the final for the first time in the history of the tournament.
Another fine show in the Champions’ Trophy put Harmanpreet on the flight to Rio de Janeiro, where the young Indian player made his Olympic debut.
Hanis Nadiah Onn became the first player from Malaysia to receive an AHF award when she was picked as the most promising female player.
Despite not being from a team that played in the Olympic Games, Hanis triumphed over other young stars of Asia’s top teams.
She played a key role when World No 21 Malaysia won 2-0 over 10thranked Japan in the 2016 Asian Women’s Champions’ Trophy in Singapore.
Challenging: Pakistan’s Shahbaz Ahmad
Award winner: SV Sunil, of India, is Asia’s best player