India begins hockey training for Olympics

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> India has begun preparations for next year's Athens Olympics in right earnest and national coach Rajinder Singh believes that the Asian style of attacking hocke

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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India has begun preparations for next year's Athens Olympics in right earnest and national coach Rajinder Singh believes that the Asian style of attacking hockey will be the key to success. The Indian probables kicked off today a month-long training camp for the double leg May 28 to June 8 invitational hockey tournament, involving India, Pakistan, Australia, Australia A at Perth and Sydney. "My main aim (at the camp) is to prepare and build a team for Olympics qualifying and Olympics," said former Olympian Rajinder Singh. He said senior players, Mukesh Kumar, Baljeet Singh Dhillon, Baljit Singh Saini and Dhanraj Pillay had been called to the camp to see if they could carry on till after the Olympic Games next year. The qualifiers would be held in Madrid next March. "They want to play more hockey and we have to give them a chance. If they are able to play for the nation, we should welcome them," he said. "I will observe them for 15 to 20 days. I would like them to play at least one international match to see how they perform and also observe their fitness level. (Their) selection would be purely based on performance and fitness level. Age will not be a consideration at all," Singh added. Rajinder Singh said the reverses suffered by India prior to his taking over as coach about a year ago could be primarily attributed to the team adopting a European style of 'mix' approach and giving up the attacking Asian 5-3-2-1 format. Singh, who was the coach of the Indian junior team which won the World Cup, said he was adopting the same recipe for success at the senior level by focusing on short- corner conversions, defending, goal-keeping and improving conversion rate of field goals. Another area of concern for the coach is the midfield, where he has only new players to depend on. It is this area that he would like to strengthen with seasoned campaigner Baljit Saini. Rajinder Singh said he would not be unduly worried by results of tournaments in Australia and Hamburg, where the team play a quadrangular tournament involving world champion Germany, Argentina and Spain in the last week of July, and indicated that he was looking at the bigger picture. India, the coach stressed, should not be too bothered by the outcome of these two tournaments, but must focus attention on the Champions Trophy in August and the Olympics. Rajinder Singh said the side's efforts should be to emerge as a consistent performer and be among the top four teams in the next two to three years. India, the eight-time Olympic gold medallist, according to him, is slowly but surely on the path of entering the golden era again. It is just be a matter of some time before India regains that glory. Meanwhile, the team for the Australian tournament was likely to be announced on May 12. (PTI)

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