When Pakistan ended up at the seventh position in the recently concluded eight-nation 33rd Champions Trophy in Auckland, it raised a few questions about that what went wrong with the team that was expected to be among the top four.
Finishing seventh means that Pakistan is out of the 2012 Champions Trophy to be held in Argentina and they will now have to earn qualification at the Challengers Cup tournament.
Although the team management never promised that the team—which is in a process of rebuilding under Dutch coach Michel van den Heuvel—would win back the trophy but they were not expected to perform so poorly either. The team coached by Heuvel secured a direct entry in the London 2012 Olympic by winning the Asian Games championship in China in 2010 after constant failures in four previous events. Prior to participating in the 33rd Champions Trophy, Pakistan had also won the tri-nation tournament in Australia by defeating the host—a major event before the London Olympic.
In Auckland, Australia, the 2010 World Cup winners, won a hard-fought battle against 2008 Beijing Olympic silver medalists Spain by a solitary goal for a record fifth successive win and in all lifting the trophy for the12th time. Skipper Jamie Dwyer, the highest goal scorer, was adjudged the best world player of the year for the fifth time.
The tournament also proved that both the Asian nations—Pakistan and South Korea—are far behind than Europe and Australia in international hockey. The Asian Hockey Federation should work out a plan in collaboration with the International Hockey Federation to hold matches against leading countries to give boost to Asian hockey. Otherwise the standard might fall even further.
Coach Heuvel has also come under bitter criticism by a group of ex-Olympians who were against hiring foreign coach. But they fail to understand that it was a team trained by the Dutch coach that recaptured the 2010 Asian Games title after a lapse of 20 years and has helped Pakistan gain a direct entry in London Games. Fairness demands that he should be given due credit. The Pakistan Hockey Federation president, Qasim Zia, himself a former Olympian, should arrange a press conference with the Coach and disclose the real reasons behind Pakistan’s failure at the Champions Trophy in Auckland.
The London 2012 Olympic is barely seven months away and Pakistan’s dismal performance is no bright spot for a team gearing up for the coming 12-nation tournament. But the team management seems hopeful and intends to overcome the shortcomings before the Olympic battle.
Let’s hopes so.