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 February 25, 2002 | 1430 IST

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Umpiring draws flak from India coach

New Zealand umpire Jason McCracken came in for some flak from the Indian camp in the context of some of his decisions during India's match against Japan, which ended in a 2-2 draw, in the 10th men's hockey World Cup, in Kuala Lumpur, on Sunday.

India's coach Cedric D'Souza could barely control his anguish at a couple of umpiring decisions which went against India. While criticising McCracken, D'Souza was quick enough to point out that wrong umpiring decisions are "part and parcel of the game", and that they cannot be held out as an excuse for a tame performance.

Elaborating, the coach said ,"Take the first Japanese goal. The infringement occurred outside our circle, but the umpire awarded a penalty-corner instead of a free-hit to Japan. That penalty-corner led to the first goal.

"I thought the decision (penalty-corner) was rather harsh, and so also the yellow card to Deepak Thakur (in the second half when the scores were tied 2-2). But these decisions are part and parcel of the game, and there is nothing you can do about it, but accept them."

The coach also pointed out to the disallowed goal by Pillay, when umpire McCracken could have applied the advantage instead of awarding a penalty-corner.

D'Souza said Thakur's suspension turned the complexion of the game. "We were on top at that point after coming back from 0-2 down to make it 2-2. His exit at this stage, turned the game for us."

Regarding the substitution of Pillay at the same time as Thakur's suspension, and which left the Indian forwardline without two key players, D'Souza defended it by saying: "Listen, Pillay's substitution just coincided with Deepak's suspension. We had already decided to pull Pillay out. Also, we needed to strengthen the midfield with Deepak's exit."

It was also felt in some quarters that inside-forward Sabu Varkey could have been given a little more play. Varkey was in and out of play, and he did not seem to get enough time to settle down.

D'Souza, however, disagreed with this view: ''An international player is expected to fire soon as he gets on to the field. If he doesn't, then I will pull him out, have a chat and send him back on. It is not just about Sabu, but any player for that matter," he said.

Looking ahead to the game against Korea on Tuesday, D'Souza said: "I obviously cannot tell you about our plans. The Koreans play just like the Japanese did, with quick transfer of the ball. And so, having played Japan, we are wiser by the experience. We will certainly regroup and do our best against the Koreans."

Korea beat Cuba 6-2 after being down 1-2 on Sunday and appear to have found their bearings. Though the Koreans looked a shadow of the team that won the silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, they still have enough steam to get through to the semi-finals.

Mail Sports Editor

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