PETALING JAYA: Injured defender Mohd Madzli Ikmar is the surprise inclusion in the 26-member national hockey training squad for the Champions Challenge, which will be played in South Africa from July 19-27.
Madzli underwent two surgeries for a fractured right wrist, which he suffered last November. He has yet to recover fully from the injury.
He has been included in the Tenaga Nasional side for the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL), which began last month. But he has yet to play a match.
Five other national players, who have recovered from injuries, have been recalled to join training, which begins on Monday at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
They are Redzuan Ponirin, Azlan Misron, Norazlan Rahim, Mohamed Fairus Ramli and Mohd Rodzhanizam Mat Radzi .
Team manager Zulkifli Abbas said that Madzli, whose last international outing was the Asian Games in Busan last October, was included in the team because they believed that he had recovered for the injury.
“He is an experienced defender and we will monitor his progress during the three weeks of training,” said Zulkifli.
“As for the other five, they have fully recovered from their injuries and are playing in the MHL.”
The squad have four newcomers – Kairul Nizam Ibrahim (goalkeeper), Mohd Sukri Abdul Mutalib (defender), B. Chandramohan (midfield) and Mohd Redza Maadun (forward).
The other 16 players are members of the team for the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament in March and European tour last month.
Brothers K. Keevan Raj and Logan Raj were left out of the team. Keevan hopes to complete his studies in a private college in July while Logan is taking an electrical engineering course at the Universiti Tenaga Nasional (Uniten).
Zulkifli said that Keevan and Logan would rejoin the team in August to prepare for the Asia Cup, which will be played in Bukit Jalil in September.
He added that they had put six players on standby as replacements for injured players.
Zulkifli also said that they would conduct a fitness test on all the players on Monday morning at the Sports Science Institute.
“The test is a 4,000m run. We hope all the players will check into training camp fit and complete the run in the stipulated time,” said Zulkifli.
Coach Paul Lissek has had enough of players checking into camp unfit.
And he issued a warning that the errant ones would be sent home immediately.
The German had an unfit team to work on for the Azlan Shah tournament in Ipoh.
The poor level of fitness stood out like a sore thumb in Malaysia's defeat in all their four matches.
Zulkifli also said that that they had three matches lined up against the national juniors (June 24, 26 and 27) and four Test matches against China (July 3, 4, 6 and 7) at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
The final squad of 18 for the Champions Challenge will be named on July 11.
Malaysia's opponents in the Challenge are South Africa, England, Spain, South Korea and New Zealand.