Pakistan’s penalty corner specialist Sohail Abbas.
KARACHI: Pakistan’s newly-appointed hockey captain Sohail Abbas believes that the forthcoming Azlan Shah Cup will be a big challenge for his young team ahead of the London Olympics.
“If the boys play as a unit and remain consistent in the Malaysian event, it can be a big boost for the team before the Olympics,” he said in an interview on Monday.
Abbas added that in the presence of Argentina, Belgium, India, Korea, New Zealand and host Malaysia, a huge effort is required from the young guns to make their mark in the event.
“It will also be a new experiment for the players as they will be playing on the blue turf for the first time,” said Sohail, who holds the world record of scoring 338 goals in 367 internationals.
“Blue turf may pose some problems because none of us have played on it. But as international players we will have to adopt to it quickly before the Olympics,” he pointed out.
“This is a team game and a collective effort is required for better results. We need a few good wins in Azlan Shah Cup to lift the morale and spirits of the team,” he added.
“Moreover, as the whole nation is watching you with lot of expectations, you need to play with a great deal of enthusiasm and put up your best show,” he remarked.
Abbas thanked the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) for reposing confidence in him as captain.
“It is a great honour for me to lead the team and I want to thank the Almighty for bestowing this honour on me,” said the 35-year-old player who featured in the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics but missed the Beijing Games.
Commenting on the outstanding youngsters in the side, he said talented players like vice-captain Waqas Sharif, Haseem Khan, Shabbir Ahmed, Shafqat Rasool, Mohammad Zubair. Mohammad Rizwan and Umar Bhutta could do Pakistan proud with their performance.
Abbas disclosed that he will be playing both as deep defender and in the mid-field while upcoming penalty-corner strikers Mohammad Tausiq and Mohammad Irfan will support him.
“Like always, my fitness level is good. I am looking forward to my new role to serve the country to the best of my abilities.”
Abbas last represented Pakistan in the Champions Trophy held in Auckland in December 2011but went out of action after he broke his jaw in the second match of the event. He also missed the 4-match Test series against China at home.