Thursday, March 31, 2016
NATIONAL coach Stephen van Huizen will name his 18 players Friday, for an uphill battle in the 25th Edition of the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh on April 6-16.
Four Olympic teams Australia, New Zealand, India and Canada will battle for the Silver Jubilee title alongside Pakistan, Japan and the hosts.
For the record, Malaysia have never won gold in this home-grown tournament, and only have five silver medals (1985, 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2014) to show.
The tournament has seen all the best teams in the world competing over the years. Australia are the regulars, while Germany, Netherlands, India, Argentina, New Zealand and South Korea are among the nations who have stood tall on the podium.
Former India skipper Dhanraj Pillay summed up the importance of the tournament in the world Hockey calendar when he said: "An international hockey players resume is not complete if he has not played in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup."
Dhanraj, who played in the Cup from 1989 to 1999, captained his side to two titles in 1991 and 1995.
"This is truly a world class tournament, and every Hockey player should have played it it to claim they have done it all in the sport," said Dhanraj.
"I was privileged to have played in this tournament from 1989 to 1999 and enjoyed all the experiences. For me, its a truly a world class event and only steps behind the Olympics, World Cup and Champions Trophy.
"I feel proud that Malaysia has kept the tournament going for 25 editions as it provides an opportunity for players to showcase their talents."
Dhanraj said that he had many bitter sweet memories of the tournament but said that getting a chance to meet the late Sultan Azlan Shah was priceless.
"Sultan Azlan will watch all the matches and plays a perfect host as he was very friendly and had the interest of hockey at heart," added Dhanraj who had also played for several teams in the Malaysian Hockey League.
The national team went on a recent 10-match Tour in New Zealand and Australia to prepare for the Azlan Shah Cup, but are not expected to make an impact.
They will open accounts against defending champions New Zealand on April 6.