x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Pakistan's Ashraf and Javed declared fit for hockey squad

The Pakistan field hockey captain recovers from a hamstring injury and will lead the side at the Commonwealth Games.

ISLAMABAD // Zeeshan Ashraf the Pakistan field hockey captain, and Kashif Javed passed fitness tests yesterday and were included in the Commonwealth Games squad. 

Ashraf had a hamstring injury while Javed twisted his left ankle during the recent training tour to Europe, but both were declared fit. 

The hockey team will depart for New Delhi today for the event which begins Saturday. 

"It's a very important event for us for which we have done good training in Europe," Ashraf said.

The 16-member strong team also included experienced trio Waseem Ahmad, Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi. Pakistan won silver at the last Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006 and are in Pool A with defending champions Australia, Malaysia, Scotland and host India. 

The other group is England, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Trinidad & Tobago. Pakistan hockey has endured a terrible 2010, finishing bottom in the World Cup in New Delhi. That forced several senior players to announce their retirement, but they returned after the intervention of Ijaz Jakhrani, the sports minister.

"No doubt we had a poor result in the World Cup, but our team has regrouped and the players are focused on doing well," Ashraf said. It will be first major international assignment for Pakitan's Dutch coach, Michel van dan Heuvel, who was hired by the Pakistan Hockey Federation in June after the World Cup. 

Pakistan will open their campaign against Scotland on October 5 before taking on Malaysia a day later, Australia on October 9 and arch-rivals India on October 10 in its remaining group matches.

* Associated Press