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Pillay appeals for sponsor

New Delhi: Indian hockey captain Dhanraj Pillay Monday made an appeal to corporate houses to come forward in aid of the national team for next year’s Olympics in Athens.

With Castrol withdrawing its sponsorship as a cost-cutting measure just before the team’s departure to Australia last month, the side is without a sponsor.

“We do need a sponsor and the multinational companies should extend their assistance to the team immediately as we have many important assignments coming up,” Pillay said.

Coach Rajinder Singh echoed Pillay’s thoughts but said it was up to the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) to negotiate with prospective sponsors.

“My job is to look after the team’s performance. Hopefully, the IHF will soon sort things out and we will have a sponsor,” he said.

The IHF president K.P.S. Gill said that talks are on with certain companies, while federation sources indicated that “negotiations are at an advanced stage and we will come up with something concrete within a few days.”

Pillay said the team is focussing on Athens. “No doubt we are very keen to do well in the Olympics. But that is still 14 months to go and we have several tournaments coming up in between. Our priority would be to play well and go to Athens high on confidence.”

The mercurial striker said the performance of India in the double-leg tournament in Australia earlier this month augured well for the team.

“The 5-3 final win against Australia in Sydney shows how we are playing now. We have improved a lot in several departments and our scoring has been much better,” he said.

With several important tournaments coming up, including the four-nation meet in Hamburg later this month, Pillay said the players were in the right frame of mind.

India will take on Germany, Spain and Argentina in the three-day meet starting on June 27. Before that, they will attend a camp starting here Tuesday.

“All the youngsters are fit and raring to go. We will be working on improving in certain areas to emerge a better side,” Pillay said. He added the team will continue to experiment in Hamburg keeping an eye on the future.

“We played experimental hockey in Australia and it helped us sort out our problems in certain areas.

The camp will help us work on short-corner conversion, defence and mid-field play. But we will continue to play attacking hockey which paid rich dividends in Australia.”

He, however, said defensive lapses continued to be a concern. “We are conceding goals in the last few minutes. We are making our defence stronger though we have a few defenders who are very good.”

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