New Delhi: After days of countrywide campaigning by sportspersons from all disciplines urging the recall of Dhanraj Pillay, the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) on Tuesday cleared the decks for his possible comeback to the national team. Pillay and Baljit Singh Dhillon have been named for a pre-Olympic Games conditioning camp in Germany.
The two seniors, controversially ignored for many months, are among nine key players included for the initial specialised camp to be held from May 27 to June 21 in Cologne. Baljit Singh Saini remains out of favour.
IHF president K.P.S. Gill said the team for the Athens Games would be named after assessment of players at the Cologne camp.
“It’s good that we have got the fund to send nine top players to Germany for specialised individual attention to prepare them for the Olympics,” Gill said. “We will send the selection committee to Germany to finalise the team and announce it from there.”
Asked whether Pillay was certain to feature in the Olympics, the IHF chief said: “The camp is not for Pillay, or anyone else, to prove his fitness. We want to enhance the physical endurance of the players. It’s to assess what he is capable of and what he has achieved. If his (Pillay’s) physical endurance is even 80 per cent, he will play.”
Gill said the decision to name Pillay for the Germany camp was not a “stand-down” on his part after the IHF got a lot of flak for ignoring the experienced forward from Olympic build-up meets and the Barog camp.
“I have been saying for years that there must be different training schedules for different players,” he said, trying to justify the IHF decision of naming Pillay for the Cologne camp, and not the one in Barog.
The others who would be going to Germany for training are Dilip Tirkey, Gagan Ajit Singh, Deepak Thakur, Prabhjot Singh, Sandeep Singh, Jatinder Pal Singh and Devesh Chauhan.
German coaches would be supervising the Indians’ training.
The group of nine would be joined in Germany by 14 others after June 12, Gill informed. A 14-member squad would then be picked for a four-nation tournament in Holland in July.
“Players at the Barog camp would go to Chandigarh for another camp from May 27. Fourteen players from Chandigarh would join the key players in Germany for a specialised camp. After the tournament in Holland, they will come back and resume training at home.”
Gill also said the future of Rajinder Singh will depend on how India perform in the Olympics. “The assessment of everyone in the team, be it the coach or players, will have to be result-oriented.”
On drag-flickers Sandeep and Jatinder Pal, gill said the duo has a “realistic” chance of making it to Athens.
“Jatinder had a good tour of Australia and Sandeep was impressive in the junior Asia Cup. They have reached a certain level. Their game as defenders has also improved. These two are certainly making a lot of progress,” he said.
Gill said Jugraj Singh may join his teammates in Germany if he made good progress at the Barog camp.
“It won’t be easy for Jugraj, but he has tremendous will power. He himself wanted to join the camp. We will watch him in Barog before deciding on whether to send him to Germany.”