KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) opted for experience when they named the final 18 to the Poland international hockey invitational tournament from Aug 18-23.
Seniors P. Prabhakaran, Megat Azrafiq Megat Termizi, Ismail Abu, Jivan Mohan, Mohamed Fakhrulradzi, Mohamed Hanafi Hassan and Azli Misron have been selected to form the core of the team.
National Under-19 skipper Engku Abdul Malek Engku Mohamed will lead the team again and will be joined by his other Under-19 teammates Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, S. Bubalan, Kelvinder Singh, Mohamed Sallehin, S. Selvaraju and Mohamed Suffian.
The players were picked after four days of training at the National Hockey Stadium here in Bukit Jalil. They will leave for Poland tomorrow.
The tournament also sees defender Megat Azrafiq playing in an international for the first time since injuring his knee in May during the Europe tour. He failed to recover in time for the Champions Challenge last month. He will link-up with Engku Malek in the centre of the Malaysian defence while Bubalan and Sallehin are the flank backs.
National Juniors coach Sarjit Singh said that all the players have had experience playing in international tournaments while eight of them have also trained with the seniors.
“We had 30 players in the training squad and it was a difficult choice. We felt the present players will gain from the experience and we had to pick players based on their ability to play at various positions. The others are still in the training squad and will regroup once we start our next phase of training,'' he added.
The National Juniors are preparing for the Junior Asia Cup next year, which will be held in Karachi, Pakistan. The Junior Asia Cup is the qualifying tournament for the 2005 Junior World Cup.
The Poland meet is the first test for Sarjit since he was appointed as chief coach of the juniors two month ago.
The Malaysians are the defending champions in the meet. They have been grouped together with Germany, Pakistan and Polish Division One team Gniezno in Group A. The other group has India, Poland, Egypt and France.
Sarjit said the tournament would offer the team a chance to see their two main rivals in the Junior Asia Cup – India and Pakistan – at close range.
“There is no doubt that India and Pakistan will be among the favourites in the meet. And it will give us a chance to assess their strength,'' he added.
On their return, the Juniors will prepare for the Razak Cup tournament in October and in December will take part in the five-nation meet in Pakistan.
THE FINAL 18 FOR POLAND
Players: Mohamed Firdaus Razali, Mohamed Hanafi Hassan, Engku Abdul Malek, S. Bubalan, Mohamed Sallehin, Megat Azrafiq, Jivan Mohan, P. Prabhakaran, Mohamed Suffian, Mohamed Fakhrulradzi, Azli Misron, S. Selvaraju, Ismail Abu, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Kelvinder Singh, Mohamed Radzi Mohamed Ismail, Mohamed Razie Abdul Rahim, Mohamed Shahrun Nabil.