ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) chief selector Olympian Islahudin Siddiqui termed merit only criteria for the selection of national squad for the Asian Games.
Talking to The Nation, Islah said: “We have selected a poll of 640 players during the whirlwind talent hunt starting from Quetta to Peshawar. These youngsters are full of talent and they can help Pakistan hockey a great deal in the years to come.”
“We will shortlist 8 to 12 players from the current camp and the rotation policy will continue till the final selection for the Asian Games-bound squad. There is still time left before the prestigious event and we want to ensure players will remain in shape. We want consistent performances from them as they are capable enough to deliver for the national team and earn laurels for the country,” he added.
Islah said national tournament was starting next month and camp commandant Shahnaz Sheikh would visit venues to check the players’ progress during the tournament.  “We have divided 640 players into four categories i.e. A, B, C and D. Top players make up each category as these 30 or so players in the camp are the best of the lot. We would also include players from departments and respective provinces before the announcement of final squad,” the ex-Olympian added.
He said the national tournament was being started from June 17 and after that, the camp would resume again on July 3 and it would end just before Eidul Fitr. “After Eid, we will start another 13-day camp for the third phase and after that, we have requested the PHF to arrange an Asian tour for the team to get much-needed international exposure and prepare for the team for mega tasks ahead. If the planned tour of Asia takes place, it will be in great benefit for the players to learn how to play against opponents in competitive matches. But if the federation, due to non-availability of funds, fails to arrange tour, we will again start the camp and the final phase of the camp will span on 12 days.”
He elaborated: “We have planned to establish the final phase of the camp in Sialkot, but only in case, if we will be provided better facilities than those which the players have been enjoying during the camp in Islamabad and if we don’t get such facilities there, then we will focus on continuing the camp at Naseer Bunda Hockey stadium Islamabad. We are very satisfied with the arrangements and facilities being provided by the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) during our stay in Islamabad and we hope same kind of treatment will be given to the camp in the future too.”
“The federation, head coach and selection committee have been playing their positive roles and now it is players’ turn to respond in the same fashion. They have to maintain same fitness levels, same aggression and passion during the off days and if they fail to do so, then they will be replaced with the fittest ones,” Islah concluded.