| Mukesh Kumar
New Delhi: Former national captain Mukesh Kumar has decided to skip the four-nation tournament in Hamburg later this month but insisted that it was not because he was neglected by the team management during the two-leg event in Australia recently.
Mukesh said he could not participate in the Hamburg tournament from June 27 to 29 because of “family problems”.
“I have informed the Indian Hockey Federation president K. P. S. Gill about my problem,” he said from Hyderabad.
Accordingly, he would not be attending the week-long camp which started Tuesday in preparation for the meet.
Mukesh said he would be available for the Champions Trophy to be held in Amstelveen, The Netherlands, in August.
“I am fully fit and playing well. I feel I can continue for some more time in the team provided I am given the chance,” he said.
Mukesh, who has represented the country in three Olympics, however, reiterated that he was “not given enough opportunities to play in Australia”.
“I was allowed to play hardly for 10-15 minutes in every match. It is not possible to play to the full potential in such a short time,” he said.
The right-winger, who made a comeback to the national team after a year-long injury lay-off, said the attitude of the team management was particularly hurting because his game had actually improved.
“I feel I am playing better than before. Even in the limited opportunities I got in Australia, I did well and made some good moves which was appreciated by (captain) Dhanraj Pillay,” he said.
He informed coach Rajinder Singh had told him before leaving for Australia that only two of the four seniors in the team would be retained for the Champions Trophy and next year’s Athens Olympics.
“While the other three were played for the full time in all the matches, I was made to sit on the bench,” he said.
However, Mukesh said he still has hopes of playing his fourth Olympics.
“I hope to play in Athens. I am ready to give my 100 per cent. But it depends on the coach and the selectors,” he said.
Camp gets off
Striker Deepak Thakur, eyeing to make a comeback after a brief injury lay-off, was among the probables who started their preparations for the Hamburg meet at the National Stadium.
Veteran striker Baljit Singh Dhillon was a notable absentee on the first day of the training camp as the chief coach laid emphasis on weeding out weaknesses in certain key areas including short corner conversion and defence.
India open their campaign against Argentina on June 27, with games against Germany Spain on the next two days.
“We have to achieve excellence in all the departments of the game to emerge victorious against good teams like Australia and Germany,” Rajinder said.
Aware that the Hamburg tournament will be India’s last outing before the Champions Trophy, the chief coach said he would like to give enough exposure to all the players.
“With Champions Trophy less than two months to go, we are taking the Germany meet seriously. We are certainly not going to make too many changes to the side that played so well in Australia.”
“Our task is to select the best-available team for the tournament and we are not going to compromise on that. Physical fitness gets top priority in our agenda,” said Rajinder, stressing on the need to include more and more young players in the side keeping an eye on the future.