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Drag-flickers were problem of plenty, says coach
May 21, 2008 18:45 IST
For long, India appeared cursed in the area of penalty-corner conversion. But, suddenly, from stark deprivation of drag-flickers, the team enjoys an abundance of them and hockey coach Ajay Kumar Bansal says he has nothing to complain about his problem of plenty.
The fact that he had three drag-flickers -- Sandeep Singh, Diwakar Ram and V R Raghunath � at his disposal at the Azlan Shah tournament provided him a luxury few Indian coaches afforded. However, at the same time, he found it tough to decide whom to drop.
India went down fighting to Argentina 1-2 in the final, and Bansal acknowledges that the penalty-corner specialists played a key role in the young team's silver medal-winning performance in Ipoh, Malaysia, and feels the problem of plenty is good for the team's health.
"It was a good problem to have. It was good for the team, while it was a problem for me. All three are very good in their job. Sandeep is an accomplished drag-flicker while Diwakar holds immense promise. And Raghunath has been playing with the senior side for a year or two. So it was really difficult to make the call," Bansal said.
But the soft-spoken coach said he was confident of his decision and made it in the best interest of the team.
"Besides being good drag-flickers, both Sandeep and Diwakar are good full-backs. Raghunath is also decent in his position. But I could not have played all three of them and I had to make a decision. Though it was tough, I never had a doubt; I knew what to do," he said.
Fielding two drag-flickers, India gave jitters to their opponents as both Sandeep and Diwakar were ready to step in whenever the team earned a penalty-corner.
Sandeep, in fact, emerged the top scorer of the tournament with nine goals, while Diwakar scored four to help India's turnaround.
So how did Bansal handle the three short corner experts?
"I told Raghunath clearly that the other two are better than him on the field. It's all about the team and he should not feel bad on being left out. And my due regards to him that he did not mind it despite being benched as No 17 or 18," the coach said.
Even after making a comeback following his accidental bullet injury in 2006, Sandeep was out of the side after an alleged fall-out with coach Joaquim Carvalho and he badly needed to put up a good show.
"He is a good player. I told him 'It's high time you proved yourself again to book a berth in the side. Otherwise, you will be finished forever. If you do not play well, two persons will be directly affected first you and second me'," Bansal said.
Diwakar too did not let him down, Bansal said.
"He had scored lots of goals and was the top-scorer in two tournaments last year. I cautioned him that we should not lose our supremacy in short corner conversion and he delivered whenever he got the scope," Bansal said.
Besides drag-flicking, the Indian coach thinks his wards have to be efficient on ground play which assumes primary importance for the side.
"One drag-flicker is good for the team, two is a bonus and three is even better to meet exigencies. But they have to be good at both and Raghunath has to improve his field play," Bansal added.