India Sports
India may not finish among top three in Azlan Shah: Gill
May 4, 2007 - 6:42:10 PM

New Delhi, May 4 - Indian hockey chief K.P.S. Gill is not optimistic about the national team's chances in the Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament, starting in Malaysia Saturday.

'It is a young team and I think we may not finish among the top three this time in the Azlan Shah,' said Gill here Friday.

After a series of failure last year, the Indian team - led by new captain Prabodh Tirkey and under new coach Joaquim Carvalho - will be hoping for a turnaround when they start their Azlan Shah campaign with their opening match against Australia, at Ipoh, Malaysia, Saturday.

'There is no fitness problem in the side but what has been bothering us is that the Indian players have a tendency of losing concentration for 10-15 minutes which hurts them badly,' Gill said.

When asked about the future of senior players like Dilip Tirkey, Gagan Ajit Singh and Viren Rasquinha, who have been unceremoniously dropped for Malaysia, Gill said that the players would be included in the next preparatory camp to be held after the tournament for the Champions Challenge tournament in Belgium.

Indian hockey is going through what may be called one of the bad phases in its history, after they finished 11th in the World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany, and then had a disastrous outing in the Doha Asian Games, where they finished fifth.

The IHF chief said they have sent a young side for the Azlan Shah tournament and would closely assess their performance.

'We have a young team there. Let's see how things go,' Gill maintained, on the sidelines of Delhi Book Store Cup invitational six-a-side school hockey tournament, organised by SCORE - a sports management company in association with the Indian Hockey Federation -.

Gill said India needed good bench strength and supply line to replace the seniors in the team.

'We are planning an intensive talent search programme and are working to set up an academy for the top 50 junior players in the country. It will most likely be set up in Chandigarh and we have to sign a Memorandum of Understanding - with the union territory administration for the purpose,' he said.

'India has always done well in the junior levels at the international stage. We need to give them enhanced facilities so that they can take the step to the senior level.'

He also lamented that the absence of injured drag flicker Sandeep Singh was a major reason for the national team's poor performance in the last few tournaments.

'Unfortunately, Sandeep got injured but should be there for the next tournament. We need to find two-three drag flickers as we cannot depend on a single player all the time,' he said.

Interestingly, when asked whether the IHF is thinking to continue with Carvalho till the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Gill said: 'Can't say.'

'He - has taken over a month ago and it is not possible to comment just now whether the present coach will stay or we will go for a foreigner.'

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