GERMANY, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia .... these were some of the teams that used to play in previous editions of the Azlan Shah Cup with full-strength sides.
But sadly, the past few seasons saw this prestigious tournament becoming a blooding ground for their young players, and the organising committee is actually condoning it.
I have witnessed this Invitational meet turn from an exciting world class event, which was almost on par with the Champions Trophy, to what it is today -- an avenue for experiment.
And the experiment does not stop at the players alone, as it looks like the International Hockey Federation (FIH) is also using it to train foreign officials and umpires, with the latter making a mess of the tournament.
When the late Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) secretary S. Satgunam was alive, India had wanted to send their second team to play in the Azlan Shah Cup a year after the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games in 1998.
After reading the faxed team list, this scribe was fortunate to witness Satgunam pick up the telephone and give an ultimatum to the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) secretary Jyothi Kumaran.
Satgunam had then said: "You have given me a list of your second team and this is very unbecoming of IHF. Fax me your best in one hour, or I am pulling the plug on India and inviting the reserve team instead."
Inside 30 minutes, IHF faxed the names of their their best 18.
Egypt, the whipping boys, were invited specially by Sultan Azlan Shah and that is his prerogative.
However, allowing world champions Australia to field only four players who helped them win the title in New Delhi is unbecoming.
Pakistan had 12 Junior World Cup players, while India fielded 11 World Cup players, South Korea and China also took this opportunity to try new hands.
Malaysia, with many players on the injury list, also had a diluted team for the 19th edition.
From the outside, it looks like the proximity to the World Cup, and being held in May instead of earlier in the year, has taken the glamour out of this edition, but the organising committee should take this as a lesson, and if they have to, hold it later in the year so that the best players can represent the invited teams and return the glamour that was conspicuously missing.