KUALA LUMPUR: Pakistani Kashif Ali (pic) has finally found his niche in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) with Sapura.
For three years, Kashif played for Nur Insafi without making any impact. This season, he joined Sapura and it proved to be a good move.
He has scored nine goals – all through penalty corners – in eight matches and is ready to challenge local star Faizal Saari of Tenaga Nasional for the top scorer award. Faizal leads the chart with 11 goals. KLHC’s Akhtar Ali and Mohamed Imran are also in the mix with eight and seven goals respectively.
Kashif, 25, is Sapura’s main penalty corner executioner and he is happy with the role.
“At Nur Insafi, I was only their second flicker and had limited goalscoring chances. This time, I’m the main flicker and it has boosted my confidence especially when I am able to get the goals,” said Kashif.
Despite Kashif getting into a free-scoring mood, Sapura are placed fifth in the seven-team table.
Kashif believes that they are much better than the placing suggests.
“We didn’t play well in some matches and that hurt us. But overall we have a good set of players and I feel all of them have worked hard over the last eight matches,” he added.
Kashif has 50 international caps with the Pakistan team. He last played for the national team in the 2010 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh.
But he is expected to be back in the team this year.
“Pakistan coach Hanif Khan recently gave me a call. I won’t know until next month when the training squad is announced. But I am hoping to be among the call-ups,” said Kashif.
Kashif is a former national junior with the Pakistan team and played in the 2009 Junior World Cup which was co-hosted by Malaysia and Singapore.
At senior level, he has featured for Pakistan in the Champions Trophy, Asia Cup and Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
Kashif also plays for Pakistan Airlines (PIA) in the Pakistani League. He scored a hat-trick in the final last year to power PIA to the league crown. He also won the top scorer award.
“It will be a bonus to be a top scorer here after winning it in Pakistan last year. Besides Malaysia, I have also played in the Bangladesh League. I will continue to play in the foreign leagues as it will help me to improve my game,” he said.
For now, Kashif wants to ensure that Sapura stay in the top half of the standings and then aim for a higher placing in the knockout stage.
“There is no doubt that the teams are quite balanced this year. I think we can stay in the top half. We need to get back to our winning ways. It was a poor weekend for us as we lost twice. But we will bounce back,” said Kashif.