KUALA LUMPUR: The national hockey team have not played a single match since they won the bronze medal in the Asian Games in Busan last October.
And they will use the four Tests matches next week to give them an indication of their strength for their challenge in the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament, which will be played in Ipoh from March 22-30.
Malaysia will play three matches against Pakistan on March 17, 18 and 20. Their other match will be against South Korea on March 19.
The matches on Macrh 17-18 will be staged at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil while the other games will be played at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh.
Skipper and central defender S. Kuhan said yesterday: “We need to play the Test matches to find out whether our performance had dropped because of the lack of match exposure.
“The matches will also help us gain confidence. We will know whether our tactics still worked for us and whether we can still play according to the system five months after the Asian Games.”
He added that the team now comprised several juniors and the matches would show whether they could click with the seniors when under pressure.
Among the juniors in the team are Mohamed Riduan Mohd Nasir, Mohd Ikmal Jabbar and Mohamed Fakhrulrazi Baharuddin.
Meanwhile, the Azlan Shah tournament will see the implementation of two changes in the rules on penalty corners.
The first allows defenders to block an attempt with the stick above the shoulders. The old rule allows only the goalkeeper to play the ball with the stick when it is above the shoulders.
The second change involves the stopping of the ball. Attackers do not have to stop the ball dead first before a shot is taken but the push out must still travel outside the D before the attempt at goal is made.
Kuhan, who is also the penalty corner specialist for Malaysia, said that the four friendly matches would give the team the opportunity to test the changes.
“I feel that to score a goal with a flick will be more difficult because the chances of defenders stopping a goal will be higher. For the team on the attack, the challenge to convert a penalty corner will be greater.”
Kuhan added that they could no longer bank on flicks alone to score goals and they have to try out different variations.
He said that the changes would make the game more interesting and umpiring would be more precise with clearer interpretation of the rules.
“Not having to stop the ball will make it easier for the attacking team to execute penalty corners,” he said.
A team of 20 players have been named for the four Test matches after which two will be dropped for the Azlan Shah tournament.
There were 23 players in the final phase of training which ended in Malacca on Tuesday.
The three players dropped were Mohd Hanafi Hassan, Engku Abdul Malek Abdullah and Mohd Anwar Ali.
SQUAD FOR TEST MATCH
Goalkeepers: Roslan Jamaluddin, S. Kumar.
Defenders: S. Kuhan, K. Gobinathan, Mohamed Amin Rahim, Nor Azlan Bakar, Megat Azrafiq Megat Termizi.
Midfielders: K. Keevan Raj, Saiful Azli, Azlan Misron, P. Prabahkaran, Norazlan Rahim.
Forwards: Mohd Fairuz Ramli, Tajol Rosli, Chua Boon Huat, Chairil Anwar, Mohd Riduan Mohd Nasir, Mohd Rodzhanizam Mat Radzi, Mohd Ikmal Jabbar, Mohd Fakrulrazi Baharuddin.