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Bhutia to lead India in Asian Cup

sports Updated: Dec 28, 2010 13:04 IST

Baichung Bhutia was on Tuesday named captain of the 23-member Indian team for next month's Asian Cup in Doha despite struggling with a leg injury.

Bhutia, 35, has yet to recover from a calf muscle injury in his right leg sustained during the squad's ongoing training camp in Dubai ahead of the continent's showpiece football event.

India are drawn alongside South Korea, Bahrain and Australia in a tough group C from where two teams will advance to the knock-out rounds of the January 7-29 tournament in the Qatari capital.

Bhutia himself was uncertain of playing the first match against Australia on January 10.

"My chances of making the starting line-up in the opener against Australia is 50-50," Bhutia told the Kolkata-based Telegraph newspaper from Dubai.

"Still, I have a different role to play for the national team in this tournament. I am seeing my doctor in the next couple of days and would try my best to make a comeback before the start."

The same newspaper quoted an unnamed Indian football official as saying Bhutia was indispensable to the team.

"Bhutia is a big player and his presence itself is a huge boost for the team," the official said. "For the Indian team, Bhutia is like what David Beckham was for England.

"We sincerely hope he regains his fitness in the next few days."

Bhutia, who hails from India's northeast, became the country's first footballer to play at the professional level in Europe when he signed up for English club Bury F.C. in 1999.

India squad

Goalkeepers: Subrata Paul, Subhasis Roy Chowdhury, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.

Defenders: Surkumar Singh, Gaurmangi Singh, Anwar Ali, Mahesh Gawli, Deepak Mondal, N.S. Manju, Rakesh Masih, Syed Rahim Nabi, Govin Singh.

Midfielders: Steven Dias, N.P. Pradeep, Climax Lawrence, Clifford Miranda, Rennedy Singh, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Baldeep Singh.

Forwards: Baichung Bhutia (captn), Sunil Chetri, Abhishek Yadav, Sushil Singh.

Chief coach: Bob Houghton