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Pillay, Jugraj among list of 26
- OLYMPIC PROBABLES - Dhillon is there, but expectedly no place for Saini

New Delhi: Dhanraj Pillay’s hopes of playing his fourth Olympic Games received a major boost on Monday when the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) named him among the 26-member probables for Athens (as reported by The Telegraph on May 21).

IHF president K.P.S. Gill, who announced the list here, sprang a surprise by giving a chance to Jugraj Singh to prove his fitness before the Olympics.

Veteran forward Baljit Singh Dhillon also made a comeback after being ignored for the fitness camp in Barog and a four-nation tournament in Japan but experienced midfielder Baljit Singh Saini and promising forward Tushar Khandekar missed out.

Gill, who ruled out any changes to the probables’ list, did not say when the 16-member final squad would be picked.

The probables would attend three training camps — in the US, Holland and Germany — besides playing in a couple of four-nation tournaments in the build-up to the Games.

Gill declined to comment on IHF’s decision to ignore Khandekar, who had earned a lot of praise from chief coach Rajinder Singh just a few days back for his performance in the Japan meet. “We are not here to talk about individual players,” said Gill.

However, he was more forthcoming on the decision to name Jugraj as a probable.

“Our only drawback is the injury to Jugraj. This made us make alternate plans and changes our scheme of things. He is now shaping up well. I can’t say whether he will be fit for the Olympics but the recovery he has shown is tremendous.”

“As far as the camp in the US is concerened, it (the decision) was not made at the eleventh hour. We had two-three places in mind — Germany, Australia and the US. We finalised in favour of the US since we can send a larger number of players there.”

After the US training, the probables would attend a three-day camp in Amsterdam before playing a four-nation meet — June 25 to July 4 — also involving Pakistan, Australia and Germany.

The players will return home on July 5 before leaving for Duesseldorf five days later. After a four-day training stint, the Indians will play a four-nation tournament also featuring Germany, Britain and France (July 16 to 18.)

Another 19 days of training in Germany will follow, the team will travel to Athens on August 7.

The Indians will thus have training camps lasting 47 days and competitions spanning 30 days, before the Olympics.

Gill said German coaches Oliver Kurtz and Gerhard Rach would be helping the team in the US. “Kurtz and Rach would be there along with our coaches in Arizona,” Gill said adding that a penalty corner expert would also join the camp in Germany.

Second coach issue

Asked whether a foreign coach would be hired for the Olympics, Gill said Rajinder and one more coach would go to Athens but didn’t say if the second coach would be Indian. “That decision will be taken later.”

Gill said preparations for the Olympics were delayed by the elections. “Last three-four months, we could do no work due to the elections. All these had to be done (in consultation) with the government and sport authority officials. We have tied the loose ends only after the polls.” (PTI)

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