The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Champions Trophy the real test’
- Coach feels Mukesh Kumar was left out because he lacked fitness

Barog (Himachal Pradesh): After the morale-boosting back-to-back tournament wins in Australia and Hamburg, the Indian hockey team is now gearing up for the “real test”, the Champions Trophy, next month.

“Both the wins were quite important. But the real test will be the Champions Trophy where the boys will have to put into play everything they learned from the last two tournaments,” coach Rajinder Singh said after a training session in Dagshai, five kilometres from here.

The team is undergoing a conditioning camp at the hill station for the Champions Trophy, to be held in Amstelveen from August 16 to 24.

“Our showings there will give a clear picture of how far we have progressed since adopting new techniques to revive the lost glory for Indian hockey. It will also be helpful in our Olympics endeavour,” he said.

India will begin campaign in the Champions Trophy against Olympic champions Holland on the opening day of the tournament.

Besides India and Holland, the six-nation tournament also features Australia, world champions Germany, Pakistan and Argentina.

Rajinder expressed confidence that India have the potential to improve on their best ever performance in the tournament. They won a medal only once in the 24 editions of the competition, a third-place finish in 1982 in Amsterdam.

“Judging by the way we are playing at the moment, I can say we have a very good chance of winning a medal in Amstelveen,” said Rajinder, quite happy with the way things have shaped up in the last few months.

“In the last few weeks, we have played against most of the teams who will be part of the competition. So we would not be experimenting in Amstelveen. The boys’ experience could also be handy since they will be exploiting the opponents’ weaknesses,” he said.

He, however, added India would continue to play attacking hockey and try to give up the European style which had become popular in the last few years.

“We are more comfortable playing our own way rather than following anyone else’s. We are more skilful than the Europeans and the attacking game suits our style,” he said.

He, however, conceded that “penalty corner conversion and goalkeeping need to be worked on”.

He asked the players to work hard towards a common goal and maintain strict discipline.

“I will not tolerate any indiscipline and no player is indispensable. You have to perform on a consistent basis or sit out. There will be no compromise on that, be it a senior or a junior player,” he said, in an apparent reference to veteran Mukesh Kumar, who has been left out.

“Mukesh’s running was very poor in Australia. That is why fitter players were chosen ahead of him. He also did not attend the camp in Delhi before the Hamburg meet. One just cannot pick and choose tournaments,” the coach said.

Rajinder singh said he was looking to the future on a step-by-step basis and would concentrate on Champions Trophy before thinking about the Olympics.

The team will proceed to Lucknow Thursday to attend the preparatory camp, which will continue till August 10.

Michael ruled out

Talented forward Sandeep Michael was ruled out of the Champions Trophy after being diagnosed with viral hepatitis.

Michael, who played a crucial role in India’s title triumph in Sydney, was found positive for jaundice, Rajinder said.

“It is unfortunate that he has been diagnosed with the disease. He has been advised rest for at least six weeks. But I do not think he can resume playing before two months,” said the coach.

But Rajinder made it clear that there will not be any replacement for Michael.

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