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Sandeep to attend Olympics camp

May 02, 2004 17:21 IST

Penalty corner expert Sandeep Singh's 16 goals in the Junior Asia Cup hockey tournament, which India won after defeating Pakistan three days ago, has virtually earned him a place in the selection camp for Athens Olympics.

Senior national hockey coach Rajinder Singh said Sandeep had improved his game by leaps and bounds and would be called for the selection camp ahead of the Olympics in August.

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However, the coach said although Sandeep was talented, it was too early to say whether he would be picked in the Olympics team.

"Sandeep has made a lot of improvements in his game. But his performance in the selection camp will be taken into consideration before thinking of picking him in the Olympics team," he said from Jalandhar.

The talented youngster impressed one and all with his goal scoring spree in the ten-nation tournament and more so on account of his beautifully executed drag flicks that reminded one of Jugraj Singh, recuperating from injuries sustained in a near-fatal accident last year.

But Rajinder said it was too early to compare the youngster to Jugraj Singh.

"No doubt Sandeep has improved his game but it will take a lot of time for him to replace Jugraj Singh," he said.

"Senior hockey is a different ball game altogether. We have to wait and watch whether Sandeep can withstand the rigours of international hockey for the entire duration of the match at the senior level," Rajinder said.

Trying to steer clear of the controversy surrounding the omission of ace striker Dhanraj Pillay, the former Olympian said, "I cannot comment on Dhanraj at the moment. We have to sit down and decide which players to call for the selection camp."

The coach denied that the team was being affected by the absence of Pillay and said he could be "given a chance" in the four-nation tournament in Holland in July provided he was fit.

"If the senior players are fit then I will have no problem in giving them a chance," said the coach while promising to put up a good show in Olympics this time around.

"The boys are working hard. We know our weaknesses in the defence as well as attack and we are trying to overcome these," he said while denying that the team's dismal show in the Australian tourneys would affect their performance in the Olympics.

"We fielded an experimental team with lots of youngsters in the double-leg tournament in Australia. To add to this we had injuries to three of our key players. So not much should be read into the team's defeat."

The coach said the biggest positive from the matches Down Under was that the team had learnt something new from every outing. "We will try to implement what we learnt in the Olympics," he said.

Athens 2004: The Complete Coverage

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