Having missed the London Olympic Games where India ended up 12th and last, former captain Arjun Halappa feels that deserving youngsters playing for rival World Series Hockey should be picked for the country by Hockey India, which is currently selecting the national squad.
"There are many talented youngsters in WSH who deserve to play for India. I feel such players should not miss out the chance to play for the country, the primary aim of anyone taking up the game, because of playing in WSH," Halappa told PTI.
Halappa (32) was not picked by HI even in the 48-strong Olympic probables list along with other top players such as Bharat Chikara and ex-captain Rajpal Singh for taking part in WSH, a joint initiative of HI's rival federation, IHF, and Nimbus Sport.
The Coorg-born midfielder, who dazzled for his franchise team Karnataka Lions in WSH Season 1, sounded pleased with the statement of former Pakistan captain Rehan Butt a few days ago that India would not have been the wooden spoonists in London had Halappa and Chikara been part of the team.
"It's an honour to be praised by someone like former Pakistan captain Rehan Butt. But I don't know whether my presence would have made any difference to the team. All I can say is I would have helped the team to the best of my
abilities," said Halappa, who is a couple of months shy of his 32nd birthday.
"I am certainly disappointed for not being picked for the Olympics. But what can I do? It was not in my hands," he said.
The Karnataka schemer, who took part in the HI-conducted senior nationals in Bangalore recently, said other people had also asked him how he had been allowed by HI to play in the tournament after refusing him a berth for the London Games as a punitive measure for taking part in WSH.
"Others have also put the same question to me. But all I say is I am representing Air India and will play wherever my employers want me to play. There were other WSH players too in the team," he said.
WSH is an unsanctioned event as far as HI and hockey's world governing body FIH are concerned.