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Pillay, Rajinder in heated exchange

Chennai: Differences between Indian hockey coach Rajinder Singh and captain Dhanraj Pillay came out in the open on Monday when the two got involved in a heated verbal duel after the team’s arrival from Kuala Lumpur with the Asia Cup.

Pillay, who was surrounded by reporters and cameramen, was reprimanded by the coach for talking to the media. The temperamental Pillay shouted back at the coach: “I am speaking on behalf of the team. I am not seeking any publicity for myself.”

At a press conference organised by team sponsors Sahara, Rajinder said something to the players and an angry Pillay screamed at the coach: “I am also a player. I am the captain, tell me.”

Later the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) downplayed the incident and secretary K. Jothikumaran, who received the players at the airport, termed the incident as “a minor one.”

Pillay narrated the incident to Jothikumaran with tears rolling down his cheeks. Cameras captured the drama before the official asked the players and the coach to go to their rooms.

“When the coach is advising or instructing the players, he has every right to do so. Players are taking it sportingly,” he said referring to the recent ban, which bars players from talking to the media.

An emotional Pillay said he never did anything to get publicity. “I have played hockey for the country for 15 years. From the bottom of my heart, I can say that all my players should get the same recognition that I get from the media.

“Sometimes, I also feel bad. I never ever called any media person and sought publicity. I will never do it in future. I want Indian hockey to go up,” he said.

“I request you all to give recognition to all players. The coach is telling there was disturbance in the camp earlier and we were a bit restricted. One should take such things in a sporting way,” Pillay said.

Rajinder tried to explain the situation. “Last time we had a bitter experience because so many players in the camp were not concentrating on the game during Champions Trophy.

“Many players were going for phone-in interviews and some were also writing articles for newspapers. Such things definitely disturb the team’s rhythm. I was only trying to explain this to the players,” he said.

Rajinder later, at a press conference, advocated ‘open trials’ to find talent for Indian teams. “We have to call open trials, if possible for full backs and other players for various other positions. We can invite drag-flickers for camps. It is an open invitation to all players in India and the good players could fit in to the national team,” he said.

Attributing India's success in the Asia Cup to teamwork, Rajinder said the team could win an Olympic gold only if the “weak links in were eradicated”.

Rajinder said: “We struck two birds with one stone - won the Asia Cup and thereby qualified for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. But there are weak links in the back, middle and forward line. We need to improve in so many areas. Most important missing part are field goals.”

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