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Defence needs strengthening: Dhillon


June 14, 2003 13:41 IST

The triumph in the second-leg of the Hockey Australia Men's Challenge in Sydney has certainly boosted the morale of the Indian hockey team, but it is imperative to keep the momentum going in order to qualify for the next year's Athens Olympics, says former India captain Baljit Singh Dhillon.

"The tournaments coming up are going to be even more tough. All we need to do is maintain the momentum gained from the win over Aussies and improve on our weak areas," Dhillon said.

Fully agreeing with Dhillon, another senior member of the side, Baljit Singh Saini, said everybody was happy after the team beat the Australians. "But we should not lose sight of the bigger fixtures coming up."

"Everybody is happy after defeating two world class teams -- Australia and Pakistan -- but our ultimate aim is to win the Athens Olympics gold and to break the Champions Trophy jinx," Saini said.

"It is not going to be easy and the recent win is only a first step in the right direction. We will have to examine our weak areas."

Analyzing the weak areas that need to be sorted out, Dhillon singled out India's defence.

"We will have to improve our defence and try to avoid conceding unnecessary penalty-corners towards the end of the match."

He also said Jugraj Singh is emerging as a good penalty-corner specialist,  "getting more consistent with his drag flicks".

Star forward Gagan Ajit Singh opined that the present blend of young and senior players in the team helped to beat the strong Australians. 

"The juniors and seniors gelled well to form effective combinations that helped our cause a lot. We always try to pick up some good things from their skill and experience," he said.

Gagan said the players will have to learn from costly mistakes they made during the last Champions Trophy and try not to repeat them.

"We have a good chance this time," he said.

Asked what strategy was adopted to beat the Aussies, Saini said after the 1-2 loss to Australia in the final of the first-leg in Perth, the team decided to attack from the word go.

"Earlier, Aussies used to attack and we used to defend, but this time we put the pressure on them by playing an attacking game from the very first minute. Within 20 minutes we snatched the game from their hands by pumping in two goals."

The trio agreed that playing against arch-rivals Pakistan is something special and beating them was like a dream come true.

"Off the field we are friends, but on field it is the same like the two armies facing each other on the border," said Gagan, a DSP with Punjab Police.

Dhillon said beating Pakistan means a lot for India, be it in hockey or cricket or any other sport.

"With Pakistan it is a do-or-die kind of situation. There is that extra urge to perform even better," Saini said.

However, he sought to downplay the red card punishment meted out to Dhillon in the match against Pakistan.

"Such incidents are normal in hockey. It is just for the fact that Pakistan was involved that the incident got so much prominence," he said.

On the upcoming fixtures, the players said the team will assemble in Delhi on June 16 for a short camp before departing on June 21 to take part in the Panasonic Cup, in Germany, beginning on June 27. The other teams in the fray include Germany, Spain and Argentina.

The team will also play some exhibition matches to warm-up for the event.


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