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Diwakar Ram in team for Olympic hockey qualifier
February 19, 2008 18:24 IST
Young drag-flicker Diwakar Ram is the lone new face in India's hockey team for the Olympic qualifier in Chile next month.
As expected, there weren't many surprises in the team, as performers with proven track record were given preference keeping in mind the necessity to qualify for the Beijing [Images] Olympics [Images].
Forward Ajitesh Rai is the other youngster who got into the squad on the strength of a good showing in the Premier Hockey League and various international assignments at the junior level.
Ram was rewarded with a berth in the squad following consistent performances in junior tournaments, particularly in Malaysia, where he emerged the tournament's top scorer.
Laying stress on penalty-corner conversions, two drag-flickers have been drafted into the side.
In the absence of Sandeep Singh, who opted out of the preparatory camp on health grounds, V R Raghunath was the automatic choice.
Diwakar snatched the other spot because of his ability to rattle experienced goalkeepers in addition to his excellent defensive skills.
Old warhorse Dilip Tirkey and his understudy William Xalxo will be in charge of the defence.
The experienced duo of Bimal Lakra and Ignace Tirkey will be the main playmakers and the skilful quartet of captain Prabodh Tirkey, Sardara Singh, Vikram Kanth and Gurbaj Singh will man the midfield.
The onus of the attack will be on the lethal combination of Rajpal Singh, highest goal-scorer in Asia Cup Prabhjot Singh, Tushar Khandekar and Shivendra Singh, with the young blood of Bharat Chikara and Ajitesh providing the back-up.
As Adrian D'Souza is not fully fit, Bharat Chetri and Baljit Singh, who coincidentally were rival goalkeepers in the PHL finals this year, have been picked to guard the Indian goal.
Coach Joaquim Carvalho said it is a balanced side.
"This is the best possible team that I expected to be given to me. The juniors in the standby list are not lagging far behind. It is a well-balanced team. It has been picked on the basis of performances against Belgium and matches played in Perth, where each player was tried out in various positions," he said.
While nominating England [Images] as the main threat in the Santiago tournament, to be played from March 1 to 9, Carvalho said his team will not take the other teams lightly.
"It is not going to be easy. We will take it match by match. I am sure my boys will bring off their best. England is the main team that we focus on since it is going to be tough.
"At the same time, we will not take chances against lowly teams, since you never know who is going to create an upset," he said.
Austria, Mexico, hosts Chile and Russia [Images] are the other teams in the fray in the tournament.
Goalkeepers: Bharat Chetri, Baljit Singh.
Defenders: Dilip Tirkey, V R Raghunath, Wiiliam Xalxo, Diwakar Ram.
Midfielders: Gurbaj Singh, Prabodh Tirkey (captain), Bimal Lakra, Sardara Singh, Ignace Tirkey, Vikram Kanth.
Forwards: Rajpal Singh, Prabhjot Singh, Tushar Khandekar, Shivendra Singh, Bharat Chikara, Ajeethesh Rai.
Standbys: Sreejesh (goalkeeper), Samir Baxla (defender), S V Sunil, Birendra Lakra, Roshan Minz, Cheeyanna (all forwards).
Officials: Joaquim Carvalho (chief coach), M P Singh (coach), M Ramesh Parameswsaran (assistant coach), Ganguly Prasad (trainer-SAI, Bangalore), Sreekanth Iyengar (physio), Prasanna (video analyst), Nagaraj (masseur), M M Somayya (technical director) and R K Shetty (manager).