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Kalmadi joins plea for Pillay's recall

May 06, 2004 18:52 IST

The Indian Olympic Association has joined a chorus of appeals to the country's hockey federation for the inclusion of Dhanraj Pillay after the striker was left out of the probables for the Athens Olympics.

Past players and the media have slammed the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) for its exclusion of Pillay, the country's most capped player.

Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi added pressure by asking the federation to allow Pillay to make his fourth Olympic appearance.

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"I've made a strong plea (to IHF president K P S Gill) for the inclusion of Pillay," Kalmadi said in a statement on Thursday.

"I have now requested Gill to reconsider the decision and if necessary take a fitness test of Pillay at the earliest."

The 35-year-old Pillay, regarded as the face of Indian hockey, was also dropped from an 18-player squad for the pre-Olympics qualifiers in Madrid in March.

At the time, the IHF said he had not recovered from a knee injury but the mercurial forward said some of his younger team mates made him feel unwanted on the pitch and coach Rajinder Singh did not fully back him.

Hockey experts believe outspoken media comments, disputes with coaches and resentment among team mates of his special status have taken their toll on the veteran of over 400 caps.

Gill, while naming 30 probables on Sunday, did not explain why Pillay was being kept out but said only players fit to last the full duration in all the games will be in the final 16.

Kalmadi said Pillay's experience could improve the medal chances of the eight-time champions.

Former captain Pillay, who led India to their first Asian Games title for 32 years in Bangkok in 1998, has won the backing of several former hockey players and former cricket captain Bishan Singh Bedi.

Ashok Kumar, member of India's 1975 World Cup winning side, said differences with the coach had led to Pillay's plight.

"The IHF can't declare him unfit because they have not even tested his fitness," he said.

The Olympics get underway on August 13.

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