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Baskaran's boys ready to rumble
N D Prashant in Doha | November 30, 2006 21:29 IST
After a disappointing 11th place finish at the World Cup in Germany, the Indian hockey team is looking to make amends by stamping its authority at the Asian Games in Doha.
The team ran into controversy on the eve of its departure from the country, when ace midfielder Viren Rasquinha, the team's most experienced player, was dropped without offering any valid reason. Rasquinha later demanded an explanation for his exclusion, saying he was full fit and dropped because of 'vested interests'.
However, after two practice matches -- against Malaysia and Japan -- it seems the side has put the last minute snag behind and is looking forward to regain lost glory.
The most relieving and morale-boosting factor was the 2-1 victory over Malaysia on Tuesday and a 6-1 rout of Japan, on Wednesday, who had finished 9th in the World Cup.
"We managed to score some field goals and this is the first proper match that we are playing after the World Cup. After seeing the way our boys played in these matches, I can say they have adapted very well to my plans. And the exhibition of play was right and I am happy with what we have done so far," said a visibly pleased coach V Baskaran, after his team's performance against Japan at the Al Rayyan stadium.
He, however, refrained from saying anything about the controversial axing of players.
"I don't want to say anything on the matter as of now. As far as the players are concerned, be it Rasquinha or anyone, all can make a comeback."
However, assistant coach Harender Singh was of the view that the team was looking for an attacking mid-fielder rather than a defensive medio in Rasquinha.
Baskaran will be opting for a 2-4-4 combination.
"We have to be emergency-oriented because we have only 16 players, out of which two are goalkeepers and one is a defender. So we have to rotate with just 13 players."
He also opined that Shivendra Singh, the top scorer in the World Cup, is matured enough to deliver the goods upfront.
"He has to be firm in his approach; he has improved, but that's where he is lacking. But with more international exposure he will get better."
In the absence of drag-flickers Jugraj Singh and Sandeep Singh, who is recovering after sustaining an accidental bullet injury, the team is heavily relying on V Raghunath to score from penalty-corners.
Reflecting on the practice matches, Baskaran said: "These wins are good but all depends on how well you play on the day. You also have to take into consideration that other teams will also have a plan against us; so all depends. We have to play well against all teams."
The Indian team takes on Hong Kong in its last warm-up match on Thursday evening.
Skipper Dilip Tirkey too was pretty satisfied with the team's showing.
"It was a good game [against Japan] and but we have to keep improving and, hopefully, things will go well," he said.
India's opening match against Bangladesh on December 1 should be a cakewalk, but the test of fire will be against teams like Korea and China, who are in the same pool.