Most of the youngsters in the national hockey team at the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup have done well and they are challenging the seniors for places in the up-coming tournaments. - Filepic
KUALA LUMPUR: The old guards’ places in the national hockey team are under threat.
National chief coach K. Dharmaraj said some senior players may be axed for the Champions Challenge 1 tournament in Kuantan which begins on April 26.
“The rookies have shown improvements during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh last month and they are now in the running to replace the seniors,” said Dharmaraj.
“We are in the process of building a strong team that can play much better in tournaments. And I want soldiers who can fight in a war,” said Dharmaraj.
“The team will be named based on current form and not on past glory,” said Dharmaraj.
Seven players made their debut in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. They are goalkeepers Mohd Hafizuddin Othman and Mohd Hazrul Faiz Ahmad Sobri, defender Shazril Irwan Nazli, midfielders Meor Mohamed Azuan Hasan, Mohd Azri Hassan and forwards Mohd Shahril Saabah and Mohd Rashid Baharom.
A German-born Malaysian, Kevin Lim, will also join the team in training on Thursday.
The 27-year-old defender got the clearance from the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to feature for Malaysia recently.
There are 29 players in the training squad and nine will be dropped after six friendlies against China, which will be held from April 13-20 in Bukit Jalil.
And the final squad of 18 players will be named for Champions Challenge 1 after a friendly against Poland on April 24.
Dharmaraj, who guided Malaysia to fourth place in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi last December, said there is more pressure in handling the senior team.
“But I will continue to work hard to further improve the standard of the national team. I want to take them to a higher level.
“I also hope the media will not publish any negative articles that can jeopardise the team’s morale before a tournament.
“They have every right to criticise the team if the players don’t perform,” said Dharmaraj.