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By Vikneswaran Raman
KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 -- Men’s national hockey team head coach, A. Arul Selvaraj has a tall order to work on after watching below par performances from some of his charges during the 2021 Malaysian Hockey League (MHL), which concluded on Saturday.
Arul is generally happy with some of the players, who have shown great leadership qualities on the pitch and worked hard throughout the league in the absence of foreign players, after almost three months without training due to the Movement Control Order (MCO) 2.0 since January.
But the fundamentals of hockey - passing and receiving – as well as penalty corner conversion is worrying the former international, ahead of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Perak scheduled from June 18-27, his first tournament since taking charge of the Speedy Tigers last August.
Over three weeks of the MHL held from March 11, excluding the final match, the teams had only managed to score around only 12.8 percent of penalty corners, which is only 11 successful conversions from 86 attempts.
Arul said around 30 percent conversion rate is considered good for international matches and that league champions and TNB Cup runners-up University Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) powered by national flicker Muhammad Razie Abdul Rahim had the highest percentage of 26 percent conversion rate.
TNB Cup winners Terengganu Hockey Team (THT) had around 15 percent, followed by Maybank (5.5 percent) and Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), who had about four percent.
“But I believe if we train and polish up the penalty corner attacks once the players report back to the national team after a short break, we should be fine because Malaysia has one of the best penalty corner experts. We also need to make sure our push-out speed is good, we will get our biomechanics team to measure the speed.
“I have to agree that, not being able to hold hockey sticks for three months could have played a role, but it is the fundamentals of hockey, which is passing and receiving under pressure, and passing and receiving on the run. So these critical elements were the weakest, need to reduce the errors,” Arul told Bernama.
Apart from that, Arul, who has coaching experience in South Africa and Ireland, praised players like Muhammad Marhan Mohd Jalil (UniKL), Faiz Helmi Jali (TNB), Muhammad Najmi Farizal Jazlan and Meor Muhammad Azuan Hasan (both Maybank), who showed huge leadership roles to navigate their teams.
“In the goalkeeping (department), I am delighted to see Muhamad Hafizuddin Othman (THT) and Adrian Andy Albert (UniKL) perform, except Adrian’s performance in the final, I think he just lost it,” he added.
2020 treble winners, UniKL only managed to defend their Charity Shield and league titles, as THT wrested the TNB Cup after edging the former champions 2-0 in the penalty shootout after both teams were tied 4-4 in the final.