India gear up for Azlan Shah Cup

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The Indian hockey team is gearing up for the Azlan Shah Cup

Updated: May 05, 2007 09:15 IST
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New Delhi:

The Indian hockey team is gearing up for the Azlan Shah Cup.

This will be the Indian team's first tournament since the Asian Games with a side with a new coach Joaquim Carvalho, six rookies and a new captain in Prabodh Tirkey, whose appointment itself was contentious.

"The captain's role is largely ceremonial in hockey. The biggest weakness, I feel, is in our coaching department. They are unable to get the best out of the players. It's good that the old bunch of non-performers are out and a new bunch is in because we have nothing to lose anyway."

"In fact, we could have given more youngsters a chance," said Aslam Sher Khan, Former Selector.

The Indian team had won the bronze medal at the Azlan Shah cup last year.

But repeating that feat will be difficult without the likes of Dilip Tirkey, Gagan Ajit Singh, Arjun Halappa and Viren Rasquinha, among others.

Add to that the return to India of Ignace Tirkey and team manager RK Shetty for personal reasons, and the prospects don't look bright - a sentiment echoed by IHF President KPS Gill.

India are in the tougher Pool A, alongside Olympic champions and world number two Australia, seventh-ranked Argentina, who are one spot above India in the rankings, and China, who they lost to in the Asian Games.

Meanwhile, the other pool should prove easy for Pakistan and Korea, although hosts Malaysia may just be the surprise package, having changed their entire squad and coach after the Asiad.

While India are fielding a young side, they couldn't have asked for a tougher baptism as they face Australia on Saturday.

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