JOHOR BARU: Mohd Zulhairi Hashim was in sizzling form during the national juniors’ playing tour to South Korea and Europe in June and July respectively.
The 21-year-old former Setapak High School defender scored a total of 16 goals from penalty corner drag flicks in 17 matches. Malaysia played eight matches in Korea and nine in Europe.
And national juniors coach K. Dharmaraj has given him the ultimate task of delivering penalty corner goals in the six-nations Sultan of Johor Cup, which begins Sunday at the Taman Daya Stadium.
Dharmaraj said that Zulhairi has been consistently scoring in the playing tours and he hopes he will shine in the tournament.
“He is the main penalty corner flicker in the team and he has good drag flicks.
“Besides scoring from penalty corner flicks, I also hope he will play well in defence as we will face strong challenge from the other teams,” said Dharmaraj.
Besides Zulhairi, Dharmaraj has five other penalty corner flickers in the team - Mohd Nor Aqmal Abdul Ghaffar, Mohd Shahril Saabah, G. Kavin Kartik, Mohd Fitri Saari and Mohd Firhan Ashaari.
Dharmaraj said that Zulhairi’s hopes of making the cut for the Junior World Cup team in New Delhi from Dec 6-15 would depend on his performance in the tournament in Johor Baru.
“I will closely scrutinise his form and also his penalty corner conversion rate as I want to take only the best players to New Delhi,” said Dharmaraj.
Zulhairi was a letdown in the Sultan of Johor Cup last year as he failed to score a single goal in six matches.
Malaysia finished a disappointing last in that tournament.
Zulhairi, who will be featuring for the third time in the tournament, said he would not let Dharmaraj down this time.
“I will give my best and will execute the penalty corner drag flicks in every match in the tournament,” said Zulhairi, who was the top scorer in the Malaysian Junior Hockey League (MJHL), netting 20 goals for Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) in 2011.
In a friendly match on Friday, Malaysia lost 2-1 to India.
Malaysia will open their campaign against Argentina on Sunday.
The other teams in the fray are England, South Korea and Pakistan