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Don't underestimate us, warns Indian hockey coach

Our Correspondent | January 07, 2004 14:09 IST
Last Updated: January 07, 2004 16:25 IST

The Indian hockey team arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday for the Azlan Shah tournament and coach Harendra Singh immediately warned: "Don't underestimate us."

Harendra was reacting to talk that India is one of the weakest of the seven participating teams, including World champions Germany, defending champions Pakistan, Australia, Korea, Spain and Malaysia.

"I know the sentiment in KL is that we are one of the weakest teams here [in the tournament], because we have included quite a number of junior players. But that does not worry me," he said.

The 34-year-old former India international, who was assistant coach to V Bhaskaran for the Sydney Olympics added, "The team will do the talking on the field and prove the critics wrong. We have a team strong enough to beat all our opponents."

India have rested several senior players and included ten juniors, who are likely to figure in the Junior Asia Cup campaign in April. But Adrian D'Souza, Sandeep Singh, V S Vinay, William Xalco, Harpal Singh, Hari Prasad, Sandeep Michael, Girish Pimpale, Tushar Khandekar and Rajpal Singh are no rookies, insists Harendra, who is also chief coach of the junior squad.

"The team is a blend of youth and experience. I would say that any team which underestimates us will pay a heavy price," he declared, hastening to add, "Like all the other teams we are also in the process of learning and providing our youngsters an opportunity to gain valuable exposure." 

Harender is counting on Dhanraj Pillay, Baljit Singh Dhillon, Ignace Tirkey, Kamaldeep Singh, Sandeep Michael and Arjun Halappa, the six seniors from the Asia Cup-winning team, to deliver. They all are seasoned campaigners and should strike a good balance with the new faces in the team.

"The seniors are capable of mounting a strong challenge. Players like Dhanraj Pillay, Baljit Singh Dhillon, Ignace Tirkey, Len Aiyappa and Kamaldeep Singh have played at the senior level and should come good."

India's opening match against World champions Germany on Thursday will provide a true assessment of the side.

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