National coach Paul Revington will hold a press conference this afternoon to name his team for the next phase, from May to September and it will be interesting to see just how many changes are expected to be made to the team.
Revs has a policy of naming a new training squad, and in October last year had named a squad of 30 players with 8 in the reserve list.
He however is not accorded such luxury this time around and has to reduce the team to 26 players, thus it will be interesting to see just which of the four players will be omitted from the squad for really there is not much o add from, in terms of talent.
The squad Revs picked in October last year went on to play in three major tournaments, the Champions Challenge in Argentina where we finished fourth, the AHF Champions Trophy in Doha where we retained our bronze medal, and the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah Cp where Malaysia lost in the final to Australia by virtue of a goal four seconds from time.
Going by the performances, and in some cases the lack of playing time in the Malaysian Hockey League, Ismail Abu who is nursing a knee injury is likely to face the chop. Ismail who plays for Terengganu HT has hardly played in the MHL and it will come as a surprise if Revs names him given the fact that he has a smaller squad and can ill afford having a passenger in the squad, utilizing an important place to do rehabilitation.
Though KLHC's Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor is also another player that drifted in and out of MHL through a shoulder injury, he has shown sufficient recovery.
Next is the Mohan brothers, Jiwa and Jivan. Of the two, Jiwa is most likely to be axed and it will not be a surprise. He had retired in the past and was brought back in 2011 by former coach Tai Beng Hai. With age catching up, perhaps it's best to allow Jiwa to ride into the sunset for good this time around.
From the goalkeeping aspect, both S.Kumar and Roslan Jamaluddin are certainties. Roslan has been outstanding in the MHL and Kumar has had some rough patches. The duo will leave for Holland after the MHL for a weeks stint under their Dutch goalkeeping coach. Some have questioned the wisdom of utilizing the Dutch coach, but looking at Roslan's vast improvement, really the stints are beneficial.
Another player that will face the chop is Mohd Ameerullah Aziz who plays for Terengganu. His team mates, Azlan Misron, Fitri Saari, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Jivan Mohan and Mohd Shahrun Nabil are likely to be retained in the national team.
One player that is expected to make the 26, after being left out of the last squad is Sapura's Azreen Rizal Nasir. He has been is exceptional form and has shown good leadership qualities as well. However a big question mark looms over Izwan Firdaus, though he will make it as Maybank's Hafifihafiz Hanafi did not play in the MHL due to a knee surgery.
Another Maybank player that could lose out after being in the training squad for the past two years is Shahrin Mohamad who never made an impact.
From KLHC, those expected to be retained are Roslan, Mohd Razie Rahim, Nabil Fiqri, Mohd Shukri Mutalib, Chua Boon Huat. Kevinder who was in the reserve squad is expected to be left out.
One surprise exclusion will be UniKL's Baljit Singh whose loss of form has been of concern. Although his team mate Mohd Faeez Noor Ibrahim is certain to be included, Baljit's omission could well see the last of the Sikhs donning national colours.
From TNB, the question mark will be on defenders Mohd Sallehin Ghani and Mohd Amin Rahim as they have really not played up to expectations and are unable to meet the demands of international hockey. Another player who ought to be left out is Amir Farid who is just ordinary given his performances in the MHL.
Players like Firhan Ashaari, left out of the last training squad are worthy of another chance as is coaxing Mohd Madzli Ikmar out of retirement for one last hurrah to qualify for the World Cup.
The national team will play China in some friendlies later this month before leaving for South Africa for four Test Matches.
The big test is the World League semis from June 29 to July 7 where they will be up against Germany, Pakistan, England, South Korea, South Africa, Argentina, and a yet to be named team. A top four finish will give them a great chance to make the 2014 World Cup in Holland.
Failing which the final chance will come this August in the Asia Cup, a tournament Malaysia has to win to take the World Cup berth.
Lets see if Revs comes up with some surprises this afternoon.