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 February 7, 2002 | 1650 IST
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'India can win a medal at hockey World Cup'

India's chances of winning the forthcoming World Cup in Kuala Lumpur are seven out of 10, feels former hockey ace M M Sommaya.

The triple Olympian was speaking at a seminar -- 'In hunt of a medal at Kuala Lumpur', organised by the Sports Journalists Association of Mumbai-Maharashtra -- along with two other former Olympians, Merwyn Fernandis and Iqbaljit Singh.

The former India skipper, who represented the country at the 1980, '84 and '88 Olympics, said after lot of experimentation the Indian Hockey Federation has put up a strong combination and "there is no reason why we cannot do well in the World Cup this month".

Mervyn Fernandis, M M Sommaya and Iqbaljit Singh at the seminar"I feel the main target for India would be to make it to the semi-finals. The weather in Kuala Lumpur would be to the liking of Asian countries and European countries would definitely find it difficult to get accustomed to the heat and humidity," he added.

He felt Germany, Australia, defending champions Holland and Pakistan would be the main contenders.

"If we make it to the semi-finals we have chance of winning a medal, may be even a gold. I would give the team seven out of ten to win a medal," he added.

On the composition of the team, the ace left half said, "There is flexibility as the young players are versatile. The team has experience in players like Dhanraj Pillay, who will be playing in the fourth World Cup, Baljeet Singh Dhillon, Thiruvalvalam and Sabu Varkey, and it is blended with youth -- like Sukhbir Singh Gill, Jugraj Singh, Ignace Tirkey and Arjun Halappa."

Ace forward Fernandis, who also played in the Olympics of 1980, '84 and '88 said the team is well-balanced and in high spirits, but the only concern is Baljit Singh Saini's fitness. He felt Saini should not make the trip if he is not fully fit. He too felt the team can win a medal.

1984 Olympian Iqbaljit Singh, a dependable defender in his playing days, said the defence has a good blend of youth and experience, with Dilip Tirkey and Lazarus Barla there to provide the solidity.

The trio were unanimous in their view that the best formation for India would be the 4-4-2 formation since many players in this team can fit into different positions.

They also felt that though it appears that India have been drawn in an easier pool along with Australia, Korea, Japan, England and Poland, the team should not relax at any stage of the tournament as all the teams are capable of pulling of an upset.

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