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IHF announces squad for Australia
April 09, 2004 16:40 IST
The Indian Hockey Federation sprang a surprise by naming a few unheralded players for the forthcoming twin tournaments in Australia this month in the lead up to the Olympic Games in Athens.
Several senior players including Dhanraj Pillay and Baljit Singh Dhillon were not included in the 18-member squad which will play two tournaments in Canberra and Sydney from April 14 to 18 and Apr 21 to 25 respectively.
Both the strikers Pillay and Dhillon were not part of the 22-member probables list announced by the IHF last week.
"Players like Pillay and Dhillon are vastly experienced and so they can join the team at any moment. The move to give the youngsters a chance in Australia is aimed at giving them exposure before the Olympics," chief coach Rajinder Singh said on Friday.
For rookie players like Raju, Jatinder Pal Singh and Sunil Yadav, this will be their first international event at the senior level.
Rajinder said players like Harpal Singh and Ajit Pal Singh were part of various developmental teams in the past and would be tested during the upcoming tournaments.
"More than winning in Australia, our focus is to develop the side for Olympics. We would be working on certain areas like drag flick conversion and mid-field and the young players would be getting a chance to prove their potential."
Also missing from the squad is mid-fielder Vikram Pillay.
Rajinder said a few promising youngsters could not be picked for the tournament since they would be representing India in the important Asia Cup, starting in Karachi from April 20.
"Asia Cup dates are clashing with the Australian tournament. So we could not select a few promising players. But that does not mean that the young players we have picked are left-overs."
Short corner expert Sandeep Singh is one such player who would be playing in Karachi and not in Australia.
"But we have Len Aiyappa and Jatinder Pal Singh proving their mettle as penalty corner experts. This is one area we really want to improve before the Olympics," he said.
The coach, however, cautioned that a good performance in Australia does not necessarily mean a berth in the team for the Olympics.
"No one should take their place for granted," he said.
The Indians will be going to Australia with a new assistant coach, N S Sodhi, who replaced Baldev Singh after the team's return from Madrid, venue for the last month's Olympic qualifiers.
Goalkeepers: Devesh Chauhan, Bharat Kumar Chhetri.
Full backs: Dilip Tirkey, Kanwalpreet Singh, Jatinder Pal Singh.
Half backs: Ignace Tirkey, Bimal Lakra, Harpal Singh, Viren Rasquinha, Len Aiyappa.
Forwards: Gagan Ajit Singh, Prabhjot Singh, Arjun Halappa, Inderjeet Kumar, Deepak Thakur, Raju, Ajit Pal Singh, Sunil Yadav.