The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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All’s not well with team, says Rajinder

New Delhi: All is not right with the Indian hockey team as it readies to launch its campaign at the Asia Cup this week. On Tuesday, the chief coach said the players were “discontented and lacking concentration”.

A visibly peeved Rajinder Singh admitted there were problems in the team and also blamed the media for creating “unnecessary hype”.

“There is discontentment among players regarding endorsements. There is a feeling that some players are getting good contracts while others are not. It is affecting the team,” the coach said at the Shivaji Stadium here where the team underwent its final training before it flies to Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday for the September 21-28 event.

Rajinder said the media had created a lot of “hype” about the game and the players by its “24-hour coverage”.

“It is good that media is supporting the game but at the same time so much publicity is affecting the attitude of the players.

“They have started feeling they are heroes. There is nothing wrong in that but they should perform to justify their hero status,” he said.

Taking a swipe at some of the senior players, he said they should become politicians, as they are good talkers.

The coach, himself a former Olympian, also partly blamed lack of concentration on the part of the players for the Champions Trophy debacle.

“Most of the time they were doing phone-ins and other stuff. They were distracted...During rest time they were talking to the media as also during the training. They could neither take rest or train properly,” Rajinder said.

The coach also slammed those who made “immature” statements about his contract being reportedly terminated during the Champions Trophy.

“The team did reasonably well in my tenure except for the Champions Trophy. But after just one match in Holland there were reports which suggested that I may be sacked. It was very immature,” he said while admitting such reports did create pressure on him.

He said all the talk about bringing in foreign coaches held little meaning unless the team “improves its basics”.

“You can call ten coaches but I can challenge they will not be able to give results because the basics of the team needs to be improved. One can take the example of Malaysia’s German coach Paul Lissek. What has he done in the 4-5 years'”

The former defender also stoutly justified the team selection for the Asia Cup. “The best players in the country are there in the team. Those who have not made it is because they are either not fit or are not up to the level required for international hockey.

“Those sitting out have not done their homework and not made enough efforts. There is not a single good players who is not in the team,” he emphasised.

Rajinder said the trouble was that players in the national squad were taking their places for granted.

“There is no competition for places in the side and players have become a little complacent. What we need is a strong second line-up,” Rajinder said.

The coach said the absence of Jugraj Singh was a big setback for the team and there could be no substitute for the youngster. “Jugraj is the world’s best drag flicker. I would rate him better that even Sohail Abbas. There can be no player who can take his place. (PTI)

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