Veteran Zeeshan Ashraf left out of Pakistan hockey squad

Ashraf, who opted out of this month's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, was not even included in the preliminary squad for the tour of Europe, which is being seen as a preparation camp for the 2012 London Olympics.

Three-time Olympic hockey champions Pakistan will kick off their preparations for the London Games with an extensive training camp in Islamabad from May 30. It’s still more than a year to go before the 2012 Olympics get under way, but Pakistan have decided to begin preparing for the assignment at full throttle with their Dutch coach Michel van den Heuvel supervising the camp that will include top players.

Ashraf was not included in the list of players in the preliminary squad that was pick for the tour of Europe on Friday. His omission from the camp probables makes it clear that the PHF has decided to sideline the aging defender for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Several other senior players, including short corner specialist Sohail Abbas, were luckier. Sohail along with other seniors like Rehan Butt, Waseem Ahmed and Shakeel Abbasi were in the preliminary squad.

The camp will begin just weeks before a strenuous tour of Europe where Pakistan will feature in back-to-back quadrangular tournaments in Dublin (Ireland) and Amsterdam (the Netherlands) before playing a series of test matches against European teams.

The Greenshirts followed their title-winning triumph at the Asian Games in China late last year with a runners-up finish in the Azlan Shah Cup, where they lost to reigning world champions Australia 2-3 in extra-time.

It was a stunning turnaround for the Pakistanis, who suffered the ignominy of finishing last in the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi last year. At the same venue, they also flopped miserably in the Commonwealth Games last year.

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