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Perform or perish: Aslam

With just 13 months to go for the 2010 hockey World Cup, the national selectors are ready to take a call on some senior players, recalled recently for the ongoing four-nation Punjab Gold Cup, reports Saurabh Duggal.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2009 23:45 IST
Saurabh Duggal

With just 13 months to go for the 2010 hockey World Cup, the national selectors are ready to take a call on some senior players, recalled recently for the ongoing four-nation Punjab Gold Cup.

The five wise men are under pressure to identify the nucleus of the national team for the mega event and the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and one of them categorically said on Monday that the Gold Cup was the last chance for the seniors to prove their worth and cement their place.

“We have given the seniors a fair chance. If they fail to prove their worth in the Gold Cup, it would be very difficult for us to accommodate them,” said Aslam Sher Khan.

Khan suggested that the senior players should make a graceful exit in case they are not selected. “Our aim is to build the team for the big events in 2010. So, we want only those players in the camp who can last long,” he added.

Among those under the scanner are Deepak Thakur (who last played in the 2006 Commonwealth Games), Arjun Halappa (2006 Asian Games), Dilip Tirkey and Vikram Pillay.

“We selected them for the Gold Cup because they deserved their place. But now we will also take into account whether they will last till 2010-end. If not, we will like to give youngsters an opportunity,” said Khan.

Khan said he was not in favour of players sticking around just for the sake of records. “The seniors have contributed many years to Indian hockey, so it is better if they retire voluntarily, instead of being pushed out of the squad,” he added. Here in the four-nation tournament, all the three visiting teams — New Zealand, Germany and Holland — have brought a number of junior and inexperienced players to expose them to international competition and Indian conditions.

Indians up against German wall

Having made a good start by beating New Zealand and holding Holland, hosts India want to end the first leg of the double-leg round-robin four-nation Punjab Gold Cup on a winning note. For that they will have to overcome World and Olympic champions Germany in Tuesday’s league encounter.

Though the Germans have brought a depleted squad, national coach Harendra Singh is aware that beating Germany will be tough and has termed it a very crucial tie for India, apparently trying to psyche up his boys. “Every game is different and each of them is like a semifinal,” said Harendra.