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We have improved a lot: Pillay
Our Correspondent |
June 16, 2003 18:26 IST
India's hockey captain Dhanraj Pillay says his team is preparing hard for next year's Olympics and will not take the tournaments it plays in the lead-up to the quadrennial event lightly.
"No doubt, we are very keen to do well in the Olympics, but that is still 14 months to go and we have several tournaments coming up in between. Our priority is to play well and go to Athens high on confidence," Pillay said, on the sidelines of the team's meeting with Sports Minister Vikram Verma in Delhi on Monday.
The mercurial striker expressed satisfaction with India's performance in the double-leg Hockey Australia Challenge earlier this month.
"The 5-3 victory over Australia in the final of the second leg of the tournament in Sydney shows how we are playing now. We have improved a lot in several departments and our scoring is much better than what it was earlier," he said.
With several important tournaments coming up, including the four-nation meet in Hamburg, Germany, later this month, Pillay said the players are in the right frame of mind for tougher challenges ahead.
India take on Germany, Spain and Argentina in the three-day meet in Hamburg, starting June 27. A training camp for the players begins at the National stadium in Delhi on Tuesday.
"All the youngsters are fit and raring to go. We will be working on improvement in certain areas to emerge a better side," Pillay added.
He said the team will continue to experiment in Hamburg, keeping an eye on the future.
"We played experimental hockey in Australia and it helped us sort out our problems in certain areas.
"The camp will help us improve our short-corner conversion, defence and midfield play. But we will continue to play attacking hockey which paid rich dividends in Australia," he said.
He, however, said defensive lapses continue to be a matter of concern.
"We are conceding goals in the last few minutes and are working on this. We are making our defence stronger though we have few defenders who are very good at their work."
Pillay also took the opportunity to appeal to corporate houses to come forward and aid the cash-strapped team.
With Castrol withdrawing its sponsorship last month, the team is without any sponsor.
"We do need a sponsor and the multinational companies should extend their assistance to the team immediately as we have many important assignments coming ahead," Pillay said.
Coach Rajinder Singh echoed Pillay's sentiments but said it is up to the Indian Hockey Federation to do the talking regarding sponsors.
"My job is to look after the players' performance on the field. It is the IHF who takes decision on such matters. But, hopefully, things will sort out soon and we will have some sponsors," he added.
IHF president K P S Gill said talks are on with corporate houses. "Negotiations are at an advance stage and we will come up with some concrete decision within a few days," he said, adding Castrol's withdrawal will not have any bearing on the team's preparation for the Olympics.
"Our preparations will not be affected. We already have some funds lined up," he said.
Rajinder, meanwhile, said he will continue to employ new strategies to enable the team play at par with the best in the world.
"No doubt Australia is technically the best team in the world, but I will continue to experiment to make the team the best in the world," he said.
Sports Minister Vikram Verma congratulated the team on their "stupendous performance in Australia" and wished them luck for the upcoming tournament in Hamburg.
Photograph: Ranjan Basu/ Saab Press