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Buoyed Sandeep eyes hattrick

india Updated: May 04, 2009 01:51 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Saurabh Duggal
Hindustan Times
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He missed the 2007 edition of the Asia Cup because of injury and now, after a gap of two years, Sandeep Singh is leading the side and eyeing a hattrick of titles.

"Last time, it was bad luck that I missed the tournament on home turf due to an injury… It's an honour to be leading the side for the prestigious tournament," Sandeep said. "After the Azlan Shah triumph, the morale of the team is high and it's going to play a big role in our quest for a hat-trick," he said before boarding the flight to Malaysia for the May 9-18 tournament. India had won the title in 2003 and 2007 (The event was not held in 2005).

"The team got its momentum from the Punjab Gold Cup and the Azlan Shah victory added to it. The Asia Cup will be a totally different experience, as the top Asian countries will be vying for top honours.

"Since it's also the qualifying tournament for next year's World Cup, the teams would be going all out to secure a berth," he said.

But with India already getting direct entry to the World Cup by virtue of being hosts, would the team take the Asia Cup lightly? "Every tournament is important. By winning the Asia Cup, we can put pressure on countries that will qualify for the World Cup. When we meet them again in the World Cup, the odds will be in our favour," Sandeep said.

Changes in the free-hit rule have made the game faster and, with it, the chances of earning penalty-corners have come down.

So, is it going to put the ace drag-flicker under pressure to convert every PC that comes India's way? "Well, the rule applies to both sides," he said.

Rajpal Singh, who missed the Azlan Shah because of exams, has also been included in the squad.

"This is my second Asia Cup and hopefully, like the previous one, this time too we will come home victorious," he said.