Sunday, October 18, 2009


Here is the scenario, 12 out of the 22 players in the Australian squad have played less then 20 international matches. And nine first choice players are not in the team which will play 5 Test Matches against Malaysia over the next seven days, commencing Monday. The full list of the matches is below.

These 12 players have 350 minutes to prove their worth to Australian coach Ric Charlesworth, that they have what it takes to don the Australian jersey for the Champions Trophy later this year.

And facing the Aussies, will be a squad of 25 Malaysian players, of which 18 will be selected by coach Tai Beng Hai and his assistant Nor Saiful Zaini for the World Cup Qualifiers to be held in New Zealand from November 7.

Malaysia has beaten the Aussies, 1-0 in the Three Nation Tournament in August but suffered heavy defeats, 8-1 and 11-3 in two other matches. But those results do not mean anything for what matters is what happens in New Zealand next month.

Qualification for the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi will virtually assure the coaching staff will cement their place and lead the team not only to the World Cup but the Commonwealth Games as well as the Asian Games. Anything less and expect the powers that be will make the duo walk the plank.

So how many matches will the fans and those within the hockey fraternity be hoping that Malaysia will win against the Aussies? Given that this is virtually the Australian development squad, we should win at least three of the matches.

But do we really expect that to happen? Well I would be pleasantly surprised if we won three matches as I believe that we will win one, draw another and lose three of the matches.

Now let's move on with regards to holding the matches so close to the Qualifiers. Why we agreed to host the Australians during this period baffles many. The matches will be completed on October 26 and five days later the final 18 will leave for New Zealand. Should there be any major injury, then the player will have no time to recover.

Then there is the question of periodisation as playing high level matches just ten days prior to an important tournament is questionable. So really what are our expectations really, do well against the Aussies and get burnt in New Zealand?

The next issue is with regards to the time the matches are to be played. Why are we playing matches at 6.00 and 5.00pm when really we should be playing matches later in the night as the weather in New Zealand will be much cooler? Why did we give in to the request of the Aussies to play the matches at times suitable to them?

Talking about weather, it baffles the critics as to why the team did not opt to train at UIA as they are located in a much cooler location and training the early mornings and late at night could be some form of stimulation exercise as the players could adapt to cooler climate right here in Malaysia.

Whatever some critics may believe, I have the interest of the team and am praying that they make it to New Delhi. When Malaysia played in the 1997 World Cup Qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur, many wrote them off as we had not qualified since Bombay 1982. But the players showed their resilience and impossible was nothing.

Could we dare dream the same this time around?

Only time and our performances against the Aussies over the next week will give us some indication. Remember it is the results in New Zealand that count, but equally vital is our performances here, for that will give the indication.