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Pillay ready to return

February 20, 2004 19:18 IST

Dhanraj Pillay, who missed the hockey Test series against The Netherlands due to injury, is expected to return to national duty when the team for the next month's Olympic qualifiers in Madrid is picked on Monday.

The team announcement, which was scheduled for Wednesday, has been deferred till next week.

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The delay gives Pillay, who was injured during the Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia last month, a few more days to prove his fitness.

Dr Anant Joshi, under whom Pillay underwent treatment for an injured knee, has already cleared the player to resume action after Sunday, Indian Hockey Federation sources said in Delhi on Friday.

If Pillay returns to the side he will take over the reins from Dilip Tirkey, who captained the side in the Test series against the Dutch.

"Pillay is fit to play after Sunday. So he has good chance of making it to the side. And if he returns, he is the automatic choice for captainship," the sources said.

"There will be a selection trial at the National Stadium on Monday and the team will be announced on the same day."

The March 2-13 qualifier at Madrid will see 12 teams fight it out for seven Athens Olympic berths to join the five continental champions.

Germany, South Korea, Argentina, Australia and Egypt have already made it to the four-yearly extravaganza by virtue of being the continental champions and will be challenged by these seven qualifiers for Olympic glory.

Qualifying for the mega event may not be a tough task for the Indians since they have been pitted in a rather easy Pool 'B' comprising Pakistan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Belgium and Canada.

Defending Olympic champions The Netherlands, Great Britain, Spain, Japan, South Africa and Poland are placed in Pool 'A'.

The Indian team will embark on the trip on February 24.

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