Naaveennash ready to shine on big stage

KUALA LUMPUR: T. Naaveennash Panicker has caught the attention of national hockey coach Sarjit Singh and is set to play in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (SAS Cup) in Ipoh from May 4-11.

The 18-year-old, who can play as a midfielder and forward, is among the 26 trainees who will undergo assessment in Wednesday's friendly against New Zealand in Ipoh.

Those who impress will secure a spot in Sarjit's final 18-member squad for the SAS Cup.

Naaveennash, who netted four goals for TNB Thunderbolts in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) last month, is excited about the prospect of earning his first senior cap.

"I won't waste the chance to showcase my skills against the Kiwis and secure a spot in the SAS Cup squad," he said.

"It will mark my first senior international match. My only prior international experience was a friendly against Chile while I was with the national junior team last year. Playing in the SAS Cup would fulfil a dream of mine."

Hailing from a family of athletes, Naaveennash could become the first to represent the nation if selected for the SAS Cup.

His father, S. Thevendran, played club-level football, while his brother Kavinash played hockey for KL during the 2018 Perak Malaysia Games and represented Sabah in the MHL in 2020.

His mother, Praba Yuvadas, was a former sprinter.

Following the New Zealand match, Malaysia will face South Korea in another friendly on Thursday before kicking off their SAS Cup campaign against Pakistan on Saturday.

Malaysia's subsequent matches are against Canada (Sunday), New Zealand (May 7), Japan (May 8), and South Korea (May 10).

The Speedy Tigers are the defending champions, having clinched the title for the first time in 2022.

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