‘Azlan Shah win a small step in right direction’

April 13th, 2009 - 8:28 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) The Azlan Shah Cup victory is a small step in the right direction and the real test is how well can India perform at the New Delhi 2010 World Cup and the subsequent Commonwealth Games. That’s how the hockey selectors and former players see the triumph at Ipoh where India won the Cup after an interval of 13 years.
Former captain and now a selector Zafar Iqbal said India won a title after a long time and it would certainly boost the morale of the team.

“Every victory brings a positive change. Indian hockey needed an international title to move forward. And Azlan Shah has come at the right time. But it is nothing to be boasted about. There is still a long way to go before we can truly say that we are back among the best,” Zafar told IANS.

Zafar said their main challenge is to put up a good performance in the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

“We need to think ahead. Our main challenge is World Cup and the Commonwealth Games. Both the tournaments are being hosted by India and we have to put up a good performance. We do not have enough time to prepare. The mental strength of the players and their fitness will be tested in these events,” he added.

Zafar felt that the team, which has a good mix of youth and experience, is the best possible combination at the moment.

“Let’s be realistic. Our senior players like Dilip Tirkey are still performing so well in international meets. But what after they retire?”

“We do not have players of such calibre to replace them. Our junior team is doing well and we do have some good juniors in the rank but that’s it. This is the best possible combination for us,” he said.

World Cup winning captain and present selector Ajit Pal Singh said the team would have to play consistently well to make a mark at the international level.

“This team has done well in a couple of months. We were runners-up in the Punjab Gold Cup and now the Azlan Shah. They will falter in some matches and will have to work hard to overcome their weaknesses. But overall they have shown they are on the right track,” Ajit Pal said.

“Next month’s Asia Cup will be a good test for the team as we are the defending champions. It will be slightly more competitive than the Azlan Shah. We have to consistently play well in the continent before we move forward to challenge the world’s best.”

Olympian and former captain Gurbux Singh lauded the Indian team and hoped they would be able to repeat the triumph in the Asia Cup.

“It’s a great win. At least they have done better than what they have been achieving over the last one year,” said Gurbux, a member of India’s gold medal winning 1964 Olympic team.

“This year they have done well in a few tournaments. The team is gaining in confidence,” he said.

“I hope they will be able to replicate the performance in the Asia Cup where they will be up against the formidable South Korea, Malaysia and Pakistan.”

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