Mohd Shahril Saabah (right) in a file photo. He hopes to play in the Champions Challenge I so that he will be picked for the World Cup and Olympic squads.
KUALA LUMPUR: Forward Mohd Shahril Saabah wants a regular spot on the national hockey team after proving himself at last month’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with three goals.
The 20-year-old player from Kuala Lumpur, who is also good with his penalty corner drag flicks, scored two goals from penalty corners and one field goal at the Ipoh meet.
Shahril, who also scored three goals in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi last December to help Malaysia finish a creditable fourth place, said that he could not ask for a better start to his hockey career with the national senior team.
“I am more than pleased with my performance as I did well to score three goals in seven matches in Ipoh,” said Shahril.
With a full-time spot on the national team to aim for, Shahril is determined to train harder and give his best in the six friendly matches against China (April 9-20) to win a place in the Champions Challenge I tournament in Kuantan (April 26-May 4).
Unfortunately, standing in his way are seven other forwards who also want a spot on the team – Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Faizal Saari, Mohd Firhan Ashaari, Mohd Rashid Baharom, Izwan Firdaus, S. Selvaraju and Ismail Abu.
Rashid, 22, also made his debut at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, scoring two field goals.
Shahril knows getting picked for the Kuantan tournament will be a challenge.
“Players like Izwan, Selvaraju and Ismail, who did not feature in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, will definitely be going all out to fight for a place in Kuantan,” said Shahril.
He has the same dream as everyone else in the training squad – of playing in next month’s World Cup (in The Hague) and also at the Olympics, and the only way there is via the Champions Challenge I.
In the Kuantan tournament, Malaysia are drawn in Group B with Asia Cup champions South Korea, Canada and France, while top-ranked New Zealand are drawn together with Japan, Ireland and Poland in Group A.