Eleven 'juniors' in World Cup squad

India includes 11 members of the Junior World Cup winning team in a 22-member squad announced for the 10th World Cup hockey tournament.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:27 IST
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New Delhi:

Once again reposing its faith in the younger players, India today included 11 members of the Junior World Cup winning team in a 22-member squad announced for the 10th World Cup hockey tournament in Kuala Lumpur next month. The team, led by Baljit Singh Dhillon, also includes experienced players like star striker Dhanraj Pillay and Sabu Varkey. Coach Cedric D'Souza was quite upbeat about the team's chances at the tournament. He however stressed that the players who won the Junior World Cup in Auckland last year should no longer be called juniors, since they had played in a number of international tournaments after that which had made them experienced hard-core professionals. "We have some more experienced players like Dhanraj too and this (mix of youth and experience) augurs well for the team before embarking on a big tournament like the World Cup," D'Souza told reporters here today. Indian Hockey Federation president K P S Gill, who was also present, said only 18 of the 22 players would finally make it to the World Cup team. "But 22 players are being sent for the preparatory camp at Ipoh, Malaysia, to take care of contingencies like last minute sickness and injuries. After the camp and preparatory matches, 18 will be selected at the last permissible moment," he informed. India had their only World Cup triumph in Kuala Lumpur in 1975 and D'Souza said the team was ready to repeat the feat in the Malaysian capital this time. "We have been working really hard for the last three years and I see no reason why we cannot win the tournament," D'Souza said. "If it doesn't happen, it would not be due to any lack of effort. It will only be because of some divine intervention because of things not going the way we want them to go," he said. Gill said a lot of planning had gone into India's preparation for this tournament and the final touches would be given at Ipoh, where the team will practice for two weeks ahead of its first match. "Ipoh has similar climate and similar kind of turf (compared to Kuala Lumpur) and the boys will get good practice there," he said. D'Souza said only one practice match, with New Zealand on February 19, was scheduled, though consultations were on with Holland and Belgium for matches earlier than that. "We don't want to play any practice games after 19th because the players need to be fresh for their first match against Japan on 24th. It is very difficult to rope in teams for practice matches at the last minute. Anyhow we will simulate match conditions most of the time during the camp (at Ipoh)," D'Souza said. Gill also said the players will be rotated in such a way that no one is over burdened. "Thrice during the tournament, we have back to back matches with less than 24 hours gap between them. It is extremely important that players are fresh as these matches are very crucial," he said. (PTI)