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Vi-reined! IHF does it again

The 'official' team list for the Asian Games was released. And, as expected, IHF managed to include a shocker, writes Uthra Ganesan.

india Updated: Nov 26, 2006 19:56 IST

Another one bites the dust. Well, almost. The 'official' team list for the Asian Games was released by the Indian Hockey Federation on Saturday. And, as expected, they managed to include a shocker by dropping midfielder Viren Rasquinha.

After a short match between the players and a few fitness tests late on Friday at Gurgaon, the selection committee decided to select Gurbaj Singh instead. Nothing special about it, except that both Viren and Gurbaj had been part of the preparatory camps in Rourkela for almost two months. But it was only on Friday night that Viren was declared 'unavailable'. That too, without a valid reason.

"There is no reason, the trials were held yesterday and we decided on the team. It was a collective decision," said coach V Baskaran. IHF secretary K Jothikumaran reiterated the 'collective decision' theory for dropping Rasquinha. "There is no injury," he admitted, but added: "It was a combination of two factors, both form and fitness, that made us take this decision."

Surinder Singh Sodhi, one of the IHF selectors present at Gurgaon, also said that Viren was not in top form, adding that he had been given enough chances. Another selector said that Viren had always been injury-prone. "He needs to be rested after every 15 minutes," he said. Interestingly, when the team arrived from Rourkela late on Thursday, the coach had insisted that there would be no 'selection trials,' only a last-minute confirmation of fitness. So much for consistency!

Viren, however, asserts that he is fully fit. "I have done five sets of fitness tests, I have passed them all, and the authorities can make the results public if they want. I have been given no reason for being dropped and I was told about it only this morning," he said.

For someone who has been an integral part of the senior squad since 2002, this is nothing less than humiliation. And Viren is understandably upset at the whole charade. "It is not about dropping Viren Rasquinha. This is not the way to treat any player, more so someone who has given his 100 per cent for so long," he said.

Viren is a player whose commitment had never been questioned in the past. Even his worst critics admit that the Mumbai player is one of the most hardworking in the Indian squad. But he is also one of the few who have retained a certain dignity and self-respect. After being dropped, there are indications that he may retire from international hockey, though he remained non-committal.

"I don't know. I need to talk to my parents; this is not an easy decision. But I will announce my decision in a day or two, one way or the other, at a press conference," he promised.

Joaquim Carvalho, his coach at Indian Oil, said the decision was "simply stupid".  "I don't know how they suddenly decided he was not fit. Now we are going into the Asiads without a genuine centre-half."

This is not the first time the IHF has gone about putting down a player in such a callous manner. Having all but announced that Dhanraj Pillay would not play for India after the Athens Olympics, the living legend was played for a total of two minutes in India's last match. More recently, asked whether Deepak Thakur could return to the team, IHF president KPS Gill was honest enough to say that he did not foresee this in the near future.

With Viren out of the Asiad, the squad that had a dream run in 2003 is all but finished. But then, that's how the IHF works.