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Viren demands reasons for exclusion
November 27, 2006 21:20 IST
Last Updated: November 27, 2006 21:26 IST
Olympian Viren Rasquinha blamed "vested interests" in the national selection panel for his last-minute exclusion from the Indian hockey team for the Doha Asian Games.
Vowing to fight the injustice meted out to him, the 26-year-old ace centre-half from Mumbai demanded that the Indian Hockey Federation makes public the reasons for his omission.
Rubbishing reports that he was dropped for lack of fitness, Rasquinha claimed that chief coach Vasudevan Baskaran wanted him in the squad for the quadrennial event next month.
Reproduced below is the text of a statement Rasquinha issued on Monday in Mumbai:
I want to thank the media for coming today. I wish to thank my employers IOCL [Indian Oil Corporation Limited] for wholehearted support for me. A thank-you to the former international players who have turned up in support. I'm saying this right at the beginning because I know that I will forget later on.
I was named in the Indian hockey team for the Doha Asian Games about a week ago. The list of 16 members was told to us by the Chief Coach, V Baskaran, and camp manager Brigadier Siddiqui in Rourkela on November 17th, a day after fitness tests and selection trials were conducted by coaches and selectors.
On the November 24, the team, along with standbys, was put through another round of trials and fitness tests in Gurgaon, supposedly to rule out any last-minute injuries. I ran the 2.4 kms endurance test in 8.54 minutes, well under cut-off time of nine minutes flat.
On November 25 morning, much to my surprise and shock, I was informed by Chief Coach V Baskaran that I had been dropped. He told me that I deserved to be in the team on current form and fitness, but that he was sorry. Later in the day I spoke to the secretary-general of the IHF, Mr. Jothikumaran, and he too told me that I deserve to be in the team and that he too was sorry.
I thank the chief coach and federation secretary for being frank with me. But neither of them told me about the reason for dropping me. WHY have I been dropped on the eve of the Indian team's departure for the Asian Games. As far as I know, no one questioned my on-field performance or my discipline. I have done five fitness tests in the duration of this camp and in all but one of the 2.4 kms runs, I have finished well under stipulated nine minutes each time. In the 40 metre speed tests, I was always within the top three finishers. These records can easily be made public.
I have been told about newspaper reports mentioning that the selectors referred to the fitness tests on the last day as criteria for team selection. If information in these newspaper reports is true, I wish to ask those who take the decision, how come I was dropped when I did better than some of other players at the camp? What about the overall fitness tests and performance over the entire duration of the two-month long training camp.
Dear selectors, what happened in those 36 hours in Gurgaon that suddenly I was deemed not good enough to be in the team? If my fitness was unsatisfactory, why was I named in the Nov 17 team in the first place and kept in the camp till the very end. No genuine reason has been given to me so far and it was embarrassing to be told to go home on the last day.
This, after giving 100% effort and commitment during my entire playing career. I strongly feel that on current form and fitness, my past record and experience in big tournaments should count for something. I have played almost 200 international matches for India with pride, honour and distinction. Otherwise I would not have been bestowed the prestigious Arjuna Award for 2005.
The selectors are all former Olympians, distinguished and respected, but I am sorry to say that I have lost all respect for them. There is a Government Nominee on the selection panel whose job is to ensure that the selection procedure is transparent. I request the reason for my dropping be made public. I think that is the minimum I deserve.
I have always played honestly and with immense pride and commitment for the country and it has deeply saddened and hurt me to be treated this way. This is the third time this year that this has happened to me and it has been one time too many. Now the question is: who are the people responsible for such crucial decisions as players selection for a crucial tournament like the Doha Asian Games.
It has become a fashion to blame the IHF president, Mr K P S Gill, and IHF secretary, Mr. K Jothikumaran, for all selection blunders in Indian hockey, but in this case and a number of others in the recent past, there are certain other insecure people with vested interests who take part in selection meetings and are equally responsible for planning and executing my ouster.
They have been responsible for the systematic annihilation of the entire core of the victorious Indian Team at the 2001 Junior World Cup in Hobart, easily the most talented bunch of hockey players to come out of India in the last decade. Gaganajit Singh, Deepak Thakur, Prabhjoth Singh, Bimal Lakra, Vikram Pillay, Kanwalpreet Singh, Devesh Chauhan and now myself, all members of the 2001 Junior World Cup-winning squad. This batch had done extremely well in 2002 and especially 2003 with the senior team.
Once chief coach Rajinder Singh Sr departed from the scene, these selfish people who have been part of the team management and selection panel at various times destroyed some of the best hockey talent to have come out of India. I am all for encouraging young, talented players, but there is a way to groom them and induct them gradually into the senior team and not throw them directly into a major tournament as important as the Doha Asian Games.
The chief coach, Mr Baskaran, wants me in his team, the IHF secretary, Mr Jothikumaran, admitted that my form and fitness are not in doubt. I am counting on you guys in the media, the Union Sports Ministry and the Indian Olympic Association to ask questions and demand an explanation. I don't really understand the politics of this all, but what I do know is that I have been treated unfairly. There is still time to put this thing right because as per the rules of International Olympic Association, as per which Asian Games is held, the team can still be changed till the last day prior to the first match.
I want to play the Doha Asian Games because I have worked immensely hard for it and I deserve to be there on sheer merit. My best wishes to the team getting ready for the challenge at Doha.