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Thakur joins hockey camp

June 17, 2003 16:57 IST

Dashing forward Deepak Thakur, eyeing a return to the Indian side after a brief lay-off due to injury, was among the probables who began preparations for the four-nation hockey tournament in Hamburg, at the National stadium in Delhi, on Tuesday.

Former India captains Baljit Singh Dhillon and Mukesh Kumar, who were in the team for the just-concluded tri-nation Hockey Australia Men's Challenge, were the notable absentees on the first day of the camp, as chief coach Rajinder Singh laid emphasis on weeding out weaknesses in key areas, including penalty-corner conversions and defence.

The team, which leaves for Hamburg on June 23, opens its campaign with a match against Argentina on June 27.  World champions Germany are next up on June 28, followed by Spain the next day.

"We have to achieve excellence in all the departments of the game to emerge victorious against good teams like Australia and Germany," Rajinder Singh said.

Aware that the Hamburg tournament will be India's last outing before the prestigious Champions Trophy in August, the chief coach said he would like to give enough exposure to all the players.

"With the Champions Trophy less than two months to go, we are taking the Germany meet seriously. We are certainly not going to make too many changes to the side that played so well in Australia."

Twenty-five players, including the 20 who represented the country in the double-leg tournament in Australia, have been called to the camp.

Barring Thakur, the selectors are likely to stick to the same side that did duty in Australia though chances of Mukesh Kumar, who was ignored for most part of the Australian tour, getting selected seems remote as he skipped the training camp, citing "personal reasons".

"Our task is to select the best-available team for the tournament and we are not going to compromise on that. Physical fitness gets top priority in our agenda," said Rajinder, stressing on the need to include more and more young players in the side keeping an eye on the future.

The probables: Devesh Chauhan, Kamaldeep Singh, Dilip Tirkey, Kanwaljeet Singh, Jugraj Singh, Ignace Tirkey, Bimal Lakra, Vikram Pillay, Viren Rasquinha, Prabodh Tirkey, Baljit Singh Saini, Dhanraj Pillay, Baljit Singh Dhillon, Gagan Ajit Singh, Prabhjot Singh, Tejbir Singh, Tushar Khandekar, Mukesh Kumar, Arjun Halappa, Sandeep Michael, Deepak Thakur, V S Vinay, Prabhdeep Singh, Harpal Singh and Deedar Singh.


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