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 February 1, 2002 | 1500 IST

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Tirkey, Saini in team for hockey World Cup

Onkar Singh

As expected, there were no surprises in the Indian team for the hockey World Cup, to be held at Kuala Lumpur, from February 24 to March 9.

The Indian Hockey Federation reposed its faith in the tried and tested and retained the team which won the Champions Challenge in December while including four more players in the 22-man squad, announced in Delhi on Friday.

The four additions are Dilip Tirkey, Baljit Saini, Bimal Lakra and Len Ayyapa. Tirkey and Saini, who played in the Sydney Olympics, and Lakra, who was in the victorious junior World Cup team, were not in the Champions Challenge team on account of injury. Ayyappa, who is strong flicker of the ball, was among the probables for the Sydney Games.

The team, to be led by Baljit Singh Dhillon, also includes experienced players like Dhanraj Pillay and Sabu Varkey.

IHF president K P S Gill said the team will leave for Ipoh, in Malaysia, on February 8, where it will train in order to get acclimatised and have a feel of the floodlights and astro turf, which is similar to the one at the Bukil Jalil stadium, in Kuala Lumpur, where the 16-team tournament will be staged.

India, who are placed in Group B along with Japan, Korea, Malaysia, England, Cuba, Poland and Australia, had won the World Cup in 1975, when Kuala Lumpur last staged the event.

The other group comprises Argentina, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Spain.

Gill said the IHF has included four extra players in the contingent and the final 18 would be picked by a selection committee comprising of the captain, coach, manager, IHF secreraty K Jyothikumaran and a government nominee.

"We have experienced in the past that some of our players get injured at the last minute and hence they cannot be replaced because of an early announcement of the team. So the team would be selected by a committee of five members on Februrary 18, depending upon the fitness and the performance of the players in the coaching camp, to be held in Ipoh," he said.

Coach Cedric D'Souza said he would not like to name any particular team as strong or term another one weak.

"I made the mistake of doing this in the last tournament and the result was obvious. We ended up losing to Poland in a crucial match. I can assure you that we would be playing our best in each and every game and try to win the tournament," D'Souza told

"We will give our best and no effort would be spared. God willing we will come back home with smiling faces," he added.

D'Souza said the boys have been working really hard for the last three years and he sees no reason why they cannot win the tournament.

"If it doesn't happen, it would not be due to any lack of effort. It will only be because of some divine intervention... because of things not going the way we want them to go," he said.

Team captain Baljit Singh Dhillon said the performance of the team would depend upon the performance of the captain.

"I know if the captain raises the level of his game and performs well, the other players automatically would play well for the country. I would try to lead the team by personal example," he said.

He admitted that the team was relatively young in age.

"Eleven of the players are those who won the junior World Cup tournament. All in all, it is a good mixture of youth and experience. These boys have international exposure and have done well in the international tournaments. We hope to do well," he added.

He too refused to name any particular team which could prove tough for his boys to beat.

"From the word go we would have to play attacking hockey. Gone are the days when you could take some team lightly. Now all teams are equal. Reputations don't matter any more."

The Team:
Goalkeepers: Jude Menezes and Devesh Chauhan
Defenders: Dilip Tirkey, Lazarus Barla, Kanwalpreet Singh, Jugraj Singh, Len Ayyapa.
Midfielders: S S Gill, Ignace Tirkey, S Thirumalvalavan, Vikram Pillay, Arjun Halappa, Baljit Saini, Bimal Lakra
Forwards: Dhanraj Pillay, Daljit Singh Dhillon, Gagan Ajit Singh, Deepak Thakur, Prabhjot Singh, Baljit Singh Dhillon, Sabu Varkey, Bipin Fernandez.
Standbyes: Kamaldeep Singh (Goalkeeper), Dinesh Nayak (Defender), Viren Rasquina (Midfielder).
Team officials: Cedric D'Souza (Chief coach); C R Kumar (Assistant coach).
Saju Joseph (trainer cum video technician)
Dr Kannan Pughazhedni (doctor/physiotherapist)
Dr Sidhu (Psychologist)
N K Batra (Manager).