S. Selvaraju (centre) during training earlier this year. He has been training hard and will have to prove his mettle in the China friendlies.
KUALA LUMPUR: Forward S. Selvaraju may have played for the country 88 times – but his last international outing was four years ago.
And he knows that past reputation will count for nothing as he seeks to earn a place in the national hockey team for the Champions Challenge I tournament in Kuantan from April 26-May 4.
No wonder the 29-year-old considers the six friendlies against China as a litmus test for him to impress national chief coach K. Dharmaraj.
The six matches, to be held at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil, will be played on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and next weekend.
“I am physically and mentally in good shape to give my best in the friendlies,” said Selvaraju, who last played for Malaysia in the World Cup qualifier in Invercargill, New Zealand, in November 2009.
“Although there are many good forwards in the training squad, I intend to rise to the occasion in the friendlies.”
Selvaraju will be fighting against the likes of Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Faizal Ismail, Ismail Abu, Mohd Firhan Ashaari, Mohd Shahril Saabah, Mohd Rashid Baharom, Izwan Firdaus and Hafifihafiz Hanafi for a spot in the team.
Selvaraju, who featured in the Junior World Cup in Rotterdam in 2005, made his international debut for the senior team in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup a year later. He was also a member of the Malaysian team who won the bronze medal in the Asia Cup in Chennai in 2007.
Coach Dharmaraj agreed that it was time for Selvaraju, who has been training hard the last three months, to show his true form in the friendlies.
“This is the first time all the 29 players in the training squad are looking concerned. Probably it’s because none of them are assured of their place in the team,” said Dharmaraj, who will drop nine players after the six friendlies.
“This is good as all of them will have to give their best in the friendlies if they want to be selected for the tournament in Kuantan.
“The final squad of 18 players will be named after the friendly against Poland in Kuantan on April 24.”
For the Champions Challenge I, Malaysia will open their Group B campaign against France on April 26, followed by matches against South Korea (April 27) and Canada (April 29).
Group A comprises New Zealand, Ireland, Japan and Poland.