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The Rediff Interview/Dilip Tirkey
February 24, 2004
Newly-appointed captain Dilip Tirkey was confidence personified on the eve of the hockey team's departure for the Olympic qualifier in Madrid, Spain.
The soft-spoken, but hard tackling full-back, who also led India in the three-Test series against The Netherlands earlier this month, however, was quick to admit that the experience of former captain and ace forward Dhanraj Pillay, who was not considered for selection because of a knee injury, will be missed during the March 2-13 tournament.
"We will naturally miss his experience. He is one of the most respected players in the Indian side," Tirkey told chief correspondent Onkar Singh in an exclusive interview at Nehru stadium in Gurgaon on Tuesday.
How does it feel to be appointed captain for the Olympic qualifier?
Naturally, I feel delighted that I have been bestowed this unique honour to lead India in an international tournament. I feel elated and thank those who reposed their confidence in me as a player who is fit enough to lead a side comprising some of the most talented players of our times. I will try my best to rise to the occasion and live up to the expectations of my countrymen and the Indian Hockey Federation.
Did you expect to be asked to lead the team for the qualifying matches?
Frankly, no; because there are so many other good players in the side. Anyone could have become the captain. I was delighted when my name was announced.
Do you feel the young boys of Orissa will be inspired by your appointment?
I would expect that to happen. Orissa has not produced too many hockey players, so it is natural that when one of them becomes captain the younger players get inspired.
As captain I would like to lead the team by example, try and do my best and not let the responsibility of captaincy put pressure on my mind and thereby hamper my game.
Which are the players you expect to do well?
As captain I would like my entire team to perform and win all matches. The boys have been playing beautiful hockey for last two-three years. I would like to see all the chances we get inside the 'D 'being converted into goals. I expect Gagan Ajit Singh, Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh in the forward line to do well. They are in good touch and should perform according to their abilities. We hope Len Aiyappa will be able to convert penalty-corners into goals. In defence, we have Kamalpreet Singh, and in midfield Viren Rasquinha and Vikram Pillay are very strong. I hope they do well. But the most important person, from whom we can expect the highest possible standards, is goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan.
The team will be looking up to you to lead by example…
I do not deny that. The team always expects its captain to do well and thereby become a role model for others to follow. The captain has to not only ensure that his game is up to the mark but also see that the others perform well too. A lot of technicalities too are to be kept in mind by the captain.
What kind of challenge are you expecting at Madrid?
This tournament is of great significance to us. We have to ensure that we win all our matches and be amongst the top seven teams to qualify for the Athens Olympics, to be held later this year. All the teams, whether it is Pakistan, New Zealand or Malaysia, are good teams and we will have to work hard to beat them by convincing margins.
Any match against Pakistan arouses patriotic passion. What are India's chances against Pakistan?
This is one match we always want to win. Pakistan has a good side. We played against them in some tournaments recently and most of the time we won. Hopefully, we will win this time as well.
Will you miss Dhanraj Pillay?
Of course, we all will miss Dhanraj, because he is an experienced player. But the side that we have picked for this particular tournament is young and I am sure the boys will give their best and try to win all the matches we play.
It seems Dhanraj is upset that some players have been talking about him behind his back. Is that true?
I do not think there is anything of the sort. He is a respected and experienced player and all the boys in the team look up to him for guidance. There is no question of anyone talking ill about him.
Finally, how sure are you about going to Athens?
I have no doubt about it. I would like to reassure my countrymen that we will give our best to take the team to Athens first and then do well in the Olympics as well.