Monday, May 14, 2012

Blood more juniors in Azlan Shah Cup

MALAYSIAN hockey never had it so good, as not only did  the juniors achieve both their targets, but also did it in style to  lift the Junior Asia Cup title in Malacca.
    Four Asian hockey powerhouses were side-stepped with  ease as coach K. Dharmaraj’s charges qualified for the  Junior World Cup, and then snatched the gold from the jaws  of a snapping Pakistan.
     Iran (6-1), Japan (3-1), South Korea (6-3), India (2-0) and  Pakistan (2-1) was the impressive wins earned by a team  which was formed in 2009.
    Since the tournament was incepted in 1987, only three  teams had laid their hands on the title -- until Sunday that  is.
   Pakistan have three under their belts starting with the  inaugural in 1987, followed by 1992 and their hat-trick in  1996; then South Korea won one in 2000; while India were  the dominant force in 2004 and 2008.
    The 7,000-odd fans who thronged the MBM Stadium in  Malacca for the final went home singing praises, but there  were some who wondered what next?
    The voices of joy also went one step further to suggest that  instead of the seniors, this team should be fielded for the  Azlan Shah Cup on May 25 to June 3 in Ipoh.
     The seven-team invitation will have six Olympic teams in  India, Pakistan, South Korea, Argentina, Britain and New  Zealand.
     “This win by the juniors has certainly lifted our standard in  Asia and it was made possible with good team-work from the  coaching, management, parent body and the National Sports  Council.
    “Hard work for the past three years has worked wonders to  produce talented players, and now I am also looking at a  bigger pool of junior trainees for the Azlan Shah Cup,” said  seniors coach Tai Beng Hai.
    Beng Hai already had five of the players in his Road to  London programme which ended with failure at the Dublin  Olympic Qualifier.
    “I now plan to have a bigger pool of juniors in the Azlan  Shah Cup training squad and will consult the junior team  management and coaches to see who is available and also  injury free.
    “I have  a handful of injured players as well as those who  can’t get leave from their studies, and if the juniors can fit into  their positions, it would be good for hockey in the country on  the long run for them to play against Olympic sides,” said  Beng Hai.
     Malaysia also grabbed the lion’s share in honours as Kavin  Kartik was named as Man of the Final, the top-scorers award  was shared by Korea’s yang Jihun and Faizal Saari on six  goals.
    Malaysian goalkeeper  Hazrul Faiz was the Best Goal keeper, as well as Player-of-the-Tournament.
    Hazrul’s double is a rarity as goalkeepers are rarely  honoured with the best players award.
     However, the downside of this team is that six of them  including both the penalty corner flickers Faizal and skipper  Nor Faez Ibrahim as well as Izat Sumantri, Amir Farid,  Mohamed Ramadan and Dedi Aryandi will be overage for the  Junior World Cup in New Delhi in November.
    And replacements should have been scouted from the 2017  side yesterday, as tomorrow would be too  late if we want to  make an impact on the junior world stage next.
   Beng Hai should also at  least field eight from the junior  squad for the Azlan Shah Cup, as exposure is all that it will  offer for Malaysia while the other six teams warm-up for  Olympic honours.