Jalandhar: The entire hockey community has rallied around injured defender Jugraj Singh who was grievously injured in a car accident on Tuesday night. Most members of the team and the coach have rushed to his bedside in a Ludhiana hospital. aÂÂHe is a very crucial player for the team. There are some hockey experts who feel we do not really have a replacement for him. But some players can be groomed to take over his position,aÂÂ said Gagan Ajit Singh, another young star in the Indian hockey squad. Hockey legend and captain of the Indian team Dhanraj Pillai has said Jugraj's injury was a great blow to the team. aÂÂJugraj Singh is one of the leading players of the Indian hockey team. You saw his performance during the Champions Trophy especially in the first match and against Pakistan. He is our main penalty striker and 70-80 per cent of our performance depends on him,aÂÂ said Pillai. Meanwhile, the government has announced that it will take care of all the medical expenses for Jugraj who has suffered multiple fractures. Crucial role But the Indian hockey team could be in serious trouble due to his absence aÂ" a penalty corner specialist is a vital part of any team these days and it is no surprise that the top scorers in the Champions Trophy were all drag-flick specialists like Jugraj. As many as 42 of the total 141 goals were scored off penalty corners in the tournament. In fact the Indian hockey team had paid special attention to penalty corner conversion at its camps before the Champions Trophy and Jugraj was being groomed as India's answer to Suhail Abbas and Jorge Lombi. Pakistan had the best success rate aÂ" they converted 11 of 29 penalty corners. Argentina converted 10 of 28 while Australia and Holland converted 7 each. India converted 5 off 15 chances. IndiaaÂÂs 15 corners were the least earned with the exception of Germany who had 12. Return awaited The Indian team has a packed schedule over the next few months and hopefully Jugraj's injury will only keep him out of two tournaments - the Asia Cup which will be held in Malaysia later this month and the Afro-Asian Games that are scheduled for October in Hyderabad. Jugraj should however be back for the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament in January next year and he will certainly be needed for the Olympic qualifiers in Spain in March 2004. In the meantime, the team has to think about finding some back-up for Dilip Tirkey. The Asia Cup is crucial because a win in the tournament will allow India to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. Most commentators felt that in India's 7-4 win over Pakistan in Holland the Man of the Match should have gone to Jugraj Singh aÂ" not only did he score twice, his defending was also brilliant. Perhaps the best message for Jugraj will be his team coming together to win the Asia Cup.
Topics : Hockey