PIC: Muhammad Rizwan Junior from Pakistan (L) is seen in action during a third round match between Australia and Pakistan at the men's hockey Champions Trophy in Auckland on December 6, 2011. PHOTO: AFP
PROJECT 2013 coach K. Dharmaraj is looking forward to test his side against Pakistan ahead of the Junior Asia Cup in Malacca on May 3-13.
The tournament also doubles up as a World Cup Qualifier, and India as hosts in New Delhi have taken one Asian spot.
And Project 2013 coach K, Dharmaraj believes that since the Word Cup is a 16-team tournament, three more seats will be made available during the Junior Asia Cup.
“The Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) have yet to inform the team management officially on the number of World Cup berths that will be on offer in Malacca, but going by past records, the top-three teams will make the cut,” said Dharmaraj.
In the Junior Asia Cup, Malaysia are in Group A with South Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka and Iran while in Group B are India, Pakistan, China and Bangladesh.
“We will be playing a series of matches against Pakistan and South Korea from April 5 (in Kuala Lumpur) and I have been told that Pakistan have included four players from their Champions Trophy squad to strengthen their side.
“That is why I am looking forward to spar with them and see how much they have improved since the Sultan of Johor Cup,” said Dharmaraj.
Malaysia became champions in the inaugural Sultan of Johor Cup, and they had beaten Pakistan 2-1 in the pool stages.
However, Pakistan have since included Syed Kashif Shah (19), Muhammad Tousiq (17), Ali Shan (19) and Muhammad Rizwan (18) -- and they have the experience of playing in the 2011 Champions Trophy in Auckland, New Zealand on Dec 3-11.
“It will be good to know their strength before the tournament as it is highly likely that we will either meet India or Pakistan in the crossover semi-finals.
“And I will also have brothers Faizal and Fitri Saari in training tomorrow (today) as they took a short break after coming home from the Dublin Olympics Qualifiers. The friendlies will also give them a chance to foster a better understanding with their team-mates,” said Dharmaraj.