THE Azlan Shah Cup will be a six-team affair this year, as Pakistan sent an email to the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) secretaray Datuk Johari Aziz on Friday to pull out at the eleventh hour.
The tournament will be held from March 13-23, with the hosts battling against World No 1 Australia, Canada, China, South Africa and South Korea.
"I received an email late Friday from the Pakistan Hockey Federation informing me that they have decided to withdraw from the Azlan Shah Cup.
"Pakistan had confirmed their participation earlier, and their 11th hour withdrawal has placed Malaysia in a sticky situation. Now, it is too late to invite another team, and also we don't want to beg a team which is not interested to play.
"So, it will be a six team tournament this year," said Johari Aziz.
India were the first team to decline invitation, and then France pulled out to play in the Champions Challenge I in Kuantan instead and the replacement were South Africa.
Malaysia are the silver medallists, while Australia the defending champions.