ABBOTABAD: Penalty corner expert Sohail Abbas will lead Pakistan’s hockey squad in the upcoming London Olympics, the only sport where the country harbours any realistic hopes of a medal in the Summer Games.
The 35-year-old was retained as captain despite Pakistan’s poor finish in last place at the Azlan Shah hockey event in May this year.
The 20-man squad will be trimmed to 18 by the team management next week before Pakistan fly to London for the Games, which start on July 27.
Pakistan’s recent poor performance forced selectors to recall senior players Rehan Butt, Mohammad Waseem and Shakil Abbasi who featured in a rebel hockey league in India which threatened their places for Olympics.
“We have included seniors so that the Pakistan team can benefit from their experience,” said chief selector Hanif Khan.
“We tried some juniors recently and now this squad for the Olympics is a combination of juniors and seniors.”
Three-time Olympic champions and with four world titles, Pakistan have slumped at international level after poor planning and with talent becoming increasingly scarce.
They finished at their worst-ever eighth position in the last Olympics in Beijing four years ago, and then slumped to the 12th and last position in the 2010 World Cup in India.
The team did win the Asian title in China in late 2010 however to secure direct qualification for the London Games and give a boost to confidence.
“We have high hopes with the team,” said Khan, a member of Pakistan’s gold medal winning team in the 1986 Los Angeles Olympics.
“If they finish on the victory podium it would be as good as a gold medal, if they finish between 4-6 it would be worth the hard work.”
Pakistan also won Olympic gold in 1960 and 1968 but their last Olympic medal in 1992 when they picked up bronze in Barcelona.
Pakistan are in Group A along with Australia, Great Britain, Spain, Argentina and South Africa.
Defending champions Germany are in Group B, which also includes Netherlands, South Korea, New Zealand, India and Belgium.
Pakistan athletes will also compete in athletics, swimming and shooting through wild card entries, but they have no serious medal hopes in those sports.
Sohail Abbas (captain), Imran Shah, Imran Butt, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Imran, Kashif Shah, Fareed Ahmed, Rashid Mahmood, Mohammad Rizwan junior, Mohammad Tauseeq, Waseem Ahmed, Mohammad Waqas, Umar Bhutta, Rehan Butt, Ali Shah, Mohammad Zubair, Haseem Khan, Shakil Abbasi, Mohammad Rizwan, Shafqat Rasool.
Courtesy: Times of India