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Indian hockey team gets cracking
May 02, 2003 16:20 IST
The Indian hockey team began preparations for next year's Athens Olympics in right earnest and national coach Rajinder Singh believes the Asian style of attacking hockey will be the key to success.
On Thursday, the Indian probables kicked-off a month-long training camp, in Bangalore, for the double leg May 28 to June 8 invitational hockey tournament, involving India, Pakistan, Australia and Australia 'A', in at Perth and Sydney.
"My main aim [at the camp] is to prepare and build a team for Olympics qualifier and Olympics," Rajinder Singh, a member of India's gold medal-winning team at the 1980 Moscow Olympics and 1982 World Cup team, said.
He said senior players Mukesh Kumar, Baljit Singh Dhillon, Baljit Singh Saini and Dhanraj Pillay had been called to the camp to see if they could carry on till the Olympic Games next year.
The qualifiers will be held in Madrid next March.
"They want to play more hockey and we have to give them a chance. If they are able to play for the nation, we should welcome them," he said about the seniors.
"I will observe them for 15 to 20 days. I would like them to play at least one international match to see how they perform and also observe their fitness level. (Their) selection would be purely based on performance and fitness. Age will not be a consideration at all," Rajinder added.
He said the reverses suffered by India prior to his taking over as coach about a year ago could be primarily attributed to the team adopting a European style of 'mix' approach and giving up the attacking Asian 5-3-2-1 format.
"Earlier, we played a different style that does not suit Indian players," he said, but emphasised that for India to beat European teams, who are good at penalty-corner conversions, goalkeeping and hit-and-run, it must adopt an attacking style.
"That is the only way we can beat European teams. We cannot beat them by adopting European style," the Indian coach said.
"Now, we are adopting the Indian style. The boys are happy. This is the way they played hockey through the years."
Rajinder, who was the coach of the Indian junior World Cup-winning team, said he is adopting the same recipe for success at the senior level by focusing on penalty-corner conversions, defending, goalkeeping and improving the conversion rate of field goals.
"In the Junior World Cup, we were getting goals only from short-corner conversions," he said, adding "we are putting in a lot of effort on our weaker areas, like goalkeeping and conversion rate".
Another area of concern for the coach is the midfield, where he has only new players to depend upon. It is this area that he would like to strengthen with the inclusion of seasoned campaigner Baljit Saini.
The schedule for the tournaments in Australia:
May 28: Australia v India; Australia A v Pakistan
May 29: Pakistan v Australia; India v Australia A
May 31: India v Pakistan; Australia A v Australia
June 1: Play off - 3 v Australia A; Final: 1-2.
June 4: Australia v India; Australia A v Pakistan
June 5: Pakistan v Australia; India v Australia A
June 7: India v Pakistan; Australia A v Australia
June 8: Play off v Australia A; Final 1-2.