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Dilip Tirkey likely skipper

New Delhi: Defender Dilip Tirkey is likely to captain the Indian hockey team in the forthcoming Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad later this month. He is coach Rajinder Singh’s choice as skipper.

The search for a new captain is on following the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF)’s decision to rest regular captain Dhanraj Pillay and other senior players including Baljit Singh Dhillon and Baljit Singh Saini, for the Hyderabad meet.

Rajinder feels that Tirkey’s relative seniority and sound temperament make him an appropriate choice as skipper.

Meanwhile both the coach and the IHF have categorically turned down Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi’s written request to include Pillay for the Afro-Asian Games because of his star value. Rajinder stated that the Olympic qualifying tournament in Spain in March 2004 was more important and he wanted his main players fresh for that tournament.

The chief coach also felt that the intensity of the competition with Pakistan would not diminish because key players were missing from both sides.

Pakistan have rested goalkeeper Ahmed Alam, penalty corner expert Sohail Abbas and forwards Kashif Jawwad, top-scorer in the recent Asia Cup with nine goals, and Shabbir Ahmed for the Afro-Asian Games.

According to Rajinder, when the arch rivals meet in their Oct. 27 group league match in Hyderabad, it will be a tense and close encounter. India’s other group matches are with Egypt (October 23) and Zimbabwe (October 25).

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