KUALA LUMPUR: Rookie Muhd Najib Abu Hassan has big shoes to fill when he makes his debut in the seven-nation Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh on Wednesday.
The defender has been selected to replace the experienced Baljit Singh Charun after proving himself in the playing tour to New Zealand last month.
He played in six matches – four against New Zealand and two against South Korea.
The 21-year-old Najib has mixed feelings about making his national senior team debut in his home state Perak.
“It feels nice to play in a big tournament, like the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, as it’s been my childhood dream to play for the senior team,” he said.
“I’m also feeling nervous about playing in front of my family, who will be at stadium.”
“I hope I can fit in well into the national team as the tournament is crucial for my hockey career. I need to play well to win a regular place in the national team.”
Najib is hoping that his maiden outing with the senior team will not suffer the same fate as that of the National Juniors in the Junior Asia Cup in Kuantan last November.
“Our target was to finish in the top four and qualify for the Junior World Cup (in New Delhi in December), but we failed and finished fifth.
“I hope we will not finish last in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup like last year,” said Najib.
Malaysia will open their Sultan Azlan Shah Cup campaign against defending champions New Zealand on Wednesday and Najib admitted that they can expect a torrid time from the Kiwis, who beat them twice (4-1) and (4-2) in first and third Test matches last month.
Malaysia won the second Test match 3-2 and drew the fourth 0-0.
“It will also be challenge for me to play well in defence against stronger teams like world No. 1 Australia, India and Pakistan,” said Najib.
The other defenders in the national team are Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim, Mohd Sukri Abdul Mutalib, Mohd Izad Hakimi Jamaluddin and Faiz Helmi Jali.
Japan and Canada are the other two teams in the tournament.
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