IPOH: Injuries and withdrawals of key players have dampened former champions Perak’s hopes of giving an improved account of themselves in the National Under-21 hockey tournament starting on Monday at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
National junior S. Bubalan failed a last minute fitness test and thus was left out of the side when coach P. Balachandran named the final squad yesterday.
The promising Bubalan is down with a back injury sustained during the recent Four-Nations Invitational meet at Bukit Jalil in which Malaysia finished runners-up to India.
Balachandran said Perak will also be without Bubalan’s teammates in the Four-Nations meet in forward S. Silvaraju and defender Shukri Mutalib. Also missing is striker Fairul Hamzani.
Silvaraju is still nursing a leg injury while Shukri has pulled out due to studies. Fairul has decided to play for Kuala Lumpur.
Despite these setbacks, Balachandran is confident that his players will, at least, qualify for the semi-finals.
“I have faith in them and we should do well this year as we still have several established and talented players in the team.
“Our initial target is to make the last four. We will then pick up from there,” added Balachandran.
Perak were champions when they hosted the meet in 1999. However, they failed to make the second round in last year's tournament.
Perak are drawn in Group A with Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Johor, Kelantan and Armed Forces.
Group B comprises Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Selangor, Perlis and New South Wales.
The Perak squad: Mohd. Fitri Abdul Aziz, Nasaruddin Ibrahim, B. Chandramohan, R. Prem Kumar, Azli Miron, Mohd Redzuan Nasir, Faizal Abdul Rahman, Faizal Idris, Mohd. Nor Othman, Abdul Hadi Adam, Abdul Shukor Adam, Baljit Singh, Abbas Nekmat, Hafifi Hafiz Hanafi, Fazreen Eksan Kulup Wahab, Mawadi Samad.