The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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One day I would like to lead again: Tirkey
- Defender gets ‘best in the world’ tag from captain Dhanraj Pillay

Barog (Himachal Pradesh): Described by his captain Dhanraj Pillay as the “best defender in the world”, Dilip Tirkey comes across as a very modest and down-to-earth person, who transforms himself into a hard nut to crack once he gets to his favourite position — in the Indian half.

“I enjoy the pressure since it brings out the best in me. It is the duty of the defenders to ensure that the team does not concede anything and I always try to give my best in every match,” he said.

Making his international debut in 1995, former captain Tirkey has since then become an integral part of the side, playing his role to perfection in almost every match so far. His consistent performance has earned him a big fan in Pillay who sees in him a “player for the future.”

“I am much impressed with Dilip’s work over the years. I can say he is the best defender in the world and he has the potential to serve the country for years to come,” said Pillay, who attributed Tirkey’s success to a “cool head on the shoulder”.

Tirkey said he is working hard to justify the faith the team management has reposed on him. “My future depends on my fitness and I am working hard to be in perfect physical shape,” said the 25-year old.

The man from Orissa, who captained the side before being replaced by Pillay earlier this year, said he enjoyed his brief stint as skipper. “Though I enjoyed my tenure as captain I was not disappointed when Dhanraj bhai was given the reins since he is the senior-most player in the side. But one day I would like to lead the side again.”

Tirkey, who has also excelled as a penalty-corner specialist, said he was disappointed with the way the game is being treated in the country.

“People are rarely seeing us in action since there is no television coverage of the matches. We are having even domestic cricket matches live but our fine performances in many important tournaments are going unnoticed.

“That is affecting the game badly as many brilliant players are not getting due recognition.

“In the final in Perth last month, we played much better than Australia but lost the match closely. Unfortunately, everybody back home only saw the scoreline and not our performance on field.”

He said India should play more and more bilateral series and international tournaments at home. “No doubt we are regularly going out for tournaments abroad but there is hardly any matches being held in India. Even countries like Malaysia are holding several tournaments.

“It can be very helpful to budding players and can generate a lot of fund for development of the game in the country.”

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