CIKGU Shukri Mutalib has set his mind to lead Malaysia into another promising battle against India on Wednesday in the Asian Champions Trophy at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium.
A teacher by profession, the national hockey skipper and his men have so far scored three 'As' by beating Pakistan 4-2, China 5-1 and Japan 7-2 to check into the semi-finals.
With two more matches in hand, which could turn out to be the most difficult, Shukri is confident he can lead his men to victories.
"We still have to face India and then South Korea to complete our pool matches and I believe my team-mates can overcome whatever obstacles that come their way," said Shukri.
Interestingly, Shukri treats his mates as 'students' when it comes to handling them on the pitch.
"I am used to handling a large number of students with many more issues and problems in school. In hockey I only have 17 players to take charge and it is much easier as they are a disciplined lot."
Even though Malaysia have scored a total of 16 goals in three matches, but they have also let in five silly goals and look especially vulnerable in the last five minutes of every match.
"Against Japan, we were leading 7-0 and I felt that it was a moment to utilise my substitutes and I replaced goalkeeper S. Kumar and all the first choice defenders and fielded my reserves.
"Well, it was a good chance to give them some match practice ahead of the India and Korea matches. Even though it resulted in two goals in two minutes, I believe we have a strong bench to rely upon," insisted coach Stephen van Huizen.
Just like planning for lessons and motivating his students in class, Shukri has also been encouraging his mates, and parting information he picks up from watching other teams play.
"The most encouraging sign in this present team is that all the players are not selfish, especially the strikers. They are playing for the glory of Malaysia and not self pride. This can be seen in the passing done in the semi-circle, before goals are scored.
"One example is the three passes that led to Fazal Shaari blasting the ball to the top of the Japan net. It took real good understanding and unselfishness to achieve that goal.
Things are looking up for Malaysia, and now they must play two more pool to make the country proud, by finishing tops in the pool and play the fourth-placed team in the semi-finals.
RESULTS: South Korea 5 China 3.
TUESDAY: Pakistan v Japan (6.30pm), India v China (8.30pm).
WEDNESDAY: South Korea v Japan (6.30pm), Malaysia v India (8.30pm).
P W D L F A Pts
MALAYSIA 3 3 0 0 16 5 9
INDIA 3 2 1 0 14 5 7
S. KOREA 3 1 1 1 6 5 4
PAKISTAN 3 1 0 2 5 7 3
CHINA 3 1 0 2 6 11 3
JAPAN 3 0 0 3 5 19 0