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India favourites in Jr Asia Cup hockey

July 10, 2008 19:09 IST

Defending champions India, with several experienced players in their ranks, have the upper hand in their opening encounter against Japan, in the sixth men's Junior Asia Cup hockey tournament, starting in Hyderabad on Friday.

India had beaten arch-rivals Pakistan to clinch the title in the last edition of the event in Karachi four years ago.

The Indian team has nine players who were part of the senior national side which finished runners-up in the Azlan Shah hockey tournament in Malaysia in May. The wealth of experience certainly makes them favourites for the title.

However, they face a serious threat from the other Asian powerhouses in the tournament, Pakistan, South Korea and Malaysia.

In young drag-flicker Diwakar Ram, India has a potent penalty-corner specialist who can change the fortunes of a game any moment.

Also, the experience and expertise of coach S P Bansal, under whom India finished secondĀ in Malaysia, adds to their strength.

Besides India and Japan, Pool A comprises Malaysia and Singapore, while Bangladesh, Korea, Pakistan and Oman make up Pool B.

Apart from the India-Japan match on Friday, Singapore takes on Malaysia, Oman plays Pakistan and Bangladesh locks horns with Korea on the opening day of the eight-nation tournament.

Incidentally, the run-up to the Junior Asia Cup was not as smooth as the organisers would have expected. The first jolt came after Thailand and China pulled out of the tournament at the last minute, forcing the organisers to shorten the event by four days.

Later, another controversy erupted when media reports said that dissolved Indian Hockey Federation chief K P S Gill was reluctant to hand over the original trophy for the event to the ad-hoc committee, which is in-charge of the tournament.

However, the issue was resolved on Friday after the president of the Organising Committee and ad-hoc selection panel chairman Aslam Sher Khan informed that they will be getting the original trophy from the dissolved IHF.

Indian team:

Goalkeepers: Sreejesh P R and Mrinal Chaubey

Full-backs: Diwakar Ram, Innocent Kullu, Manjeet Kullu.

Midfielders: Gurbaz Singh (capt), Vivek, Ranjit Singh, Vikas Sharma, B Horro and Amandeep Ekka.

Forwards: Mandeep Antil, S V Sunil, Gurminder Singh, Jagwant Singh, Pramod, Roshan Minz and Danish Mujtaba.

Reserves: Harjit Singh (goalkeeper), Samir Baxla (full back), Virender Lakra (midfielder), Dharam Vir and Jujhar Singh (forwards).

Coach: S P Bansal.

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