The Pakistan Hockey Federation's decision to "rest" some senior players and drop a few juniors for next month's inaugural Asian Champions Trophy in China has raised a question on whether the PHF has taken disciplinary action against the players.
While the PHF has insisted the players Rehan Butt, Sohail Abbas and goalkeeper Salman Akbar were being given rest, insiders say Butt and Akbar were involved in a "drinking episode" on the recent tour of Europe. "Both these players misbehaved with the management, including the Dutch coach Michel Van Den," well-informed sources said.
The federation has named 26 players for the training camp in Islamabad in preparation for the tournament, after which 18 will be selected.
The source said penalty-corner specialist Sohail Abbas, however, was not named as he failed to satisfy the officials with his fitness.
The source said that Butt and Akbar, besides three other junior players, had breached the code of conduct, and as many as four juniors were fined USD 1,000, while Akbar was released from the touring party straight away.
The source said the Dutch coach had made it clear to the PHF that he would not compromise on discipline. "In fact Van Den wanted to send back Akbar immediately from Holland but due to logistic problems, he was retained," the source said.
Butt, one of the most experienced forwards in the Pakistan team, however, insisted he has not breached the code and in fact wanted rest before major events like the Men's Champions Trophy and next year's Olympic Games.
"I actually needed rest and in my absence many juniors will have a chance to play," Butt told reporters. "Although I failed to score on the Europe tour, I am satisfied with my performance and I willÂ regain my form after some rest. Seniors are always needed but juniors must also be given chances to prove themselves as they are our future."
Asif Bajwa, the PHF secretary, said that they were no plans to sideline the seniors and, as long as they were fit, they could continue to play for Pakistan. "Obviously every player has to go one day and another will come to replace him but as long as they are fit and giving their best, the seniors are always welcome. Discipline is key to success and every player must follow it strictly."