KUALA LUMPUR: Defender S. Shanker is willing to make an international hockey comeback. But until he completes his studies, he will only be available to play in matches in Malaysia.
The 23-year-old Shanker had quit the national team after the World Cup Finals in Kuala Lumpur last year to pursue a diploma course in electrical engineering at the Federal Institute of Technology (FIT).
He is one of the two players who coach Paul Lissek hopes to coax out of retirement. The other is veteran defender Maninderjit Singh.
Malaysia have two international tournaments lined up for them this year – the Champions Challenge in Randburg, South Africa from July 19-27; and Asia Cup at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil from Sept 11-21.
Shanker said yesterday that his studies prevented him from making a comeback to play for Malaysia in matches abroad.
“At the moment, I am only available for matches in Malaysia. I cannot afford to miss classes, which are held from Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm,” he said.
“I am studying in a private college and if I miss classes, I won't be allowed to sit for the exams. My studies come first and I want to obtain a diploma by March next year.”
Lissek, whose training squad have been hit by absenteeism and injuries to players, believes that Shanker and Maninderjit can provide the answer to having a stronger side for the Champions Challenge and Asia Cup.
The duo play for Ernst and Young in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).
Training for the Champions Challenge began on Monday at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil and five of the 26 players called up were absent. They are Jivan Mohan, Shaiful Azli and newcomers B. Chandramohan, Mohd Khairul Nizam and Mohd Shukri Mutalib.
Seven players – Redzuan Ponirin, Mohd Madzli Ikmar, P. Prabahkaran, Norazlan Rahim, Fairuz Ramli, Mohd Rodhanizam Radzi and Megat Azrafiq – checked in with injuries.
Another player, forward Chua Boon Huat, was injured on the first day of training. He was hit by a stick and needed five stitches for a gash below the eyebrow.
Training for the Asia Cup is scheduled for August and the Johor-born Shanker said he would try his best to join the team.
“I would love to play for Malaysia again in the Asia Cup. But it won't be easy juggling time between studies and training,” he said.
“I will also have to consult the Malaysian EXIM Development (a construction company), who have given me a scholarship, to find out whether they will allow me to play for the country.”
Meanwhile, the 31-year-old Maninderjit could not be reached for his comment on whether he was willing to don national colours again.