Differences surface over selection of Pak hockey squad
The announcement of the Pakistan hockey squad for the tour of China was delayed for a day after differences erupted between the team management and chief selector over the recall of senior players Rehan Butt and Mohammad Saqlain.
The 18-member squad was to be announced on Friday after the conclusion of two-day trials in Lahore but no announcement came with chief selector Islahuddin Siddiqui saying that approval was required from the President of the Pakistan Hockey Federation before the making the names public.
The squad was finally announced today with Saqlain and Butt being included in it.
Sources said that the dispute arose with Islahuddin saying that Butt and Saqlain were not fit and did not warrant selection while chief coach Khawaja Zakauuddin insisting they must be included in the squad.
"Islah's view is that Butt, a former captain, is still not fit and Saqlain's attitude remains abrasive. But Zakauuddin and his team of coaches are insisting the two senior players must be in the squad to prepare them for the Beijing Olympics," sources said.
Last month Islahuddin was dropped as chief coach and made chief selector while Zakauuddin was asked to leave his chief selector's post and become the coach.
Saqlain and Butt were recalled for the training camp and trials after being ignored for the last few tournaments.
Saqlain has been out of favour with the selectors since December 2006 when he opted to skip a training camp for the Asian Games and play in a foreign league while Butt was dropped last year for the Champions Trophy.
Sources said Islahuddin's fellow selector Mudassar Asghar was supporting Zakauuddin's stance that the senior players should be recalled to the team to create more options.
"Islahuddin was adamant that the seniors will spoil the balance of the team. The final squad has now been sent to the PHF President to resolve the issue," the source said.
Sources said the squad was announced after PHF chief Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali met Islahuddin and resolved the matter.
Pakistan's hockey rankings have slipped badly in the last one decade with their last major title coming in 1994 when they won the World Cup in Australia.