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Picking new players for Azlan Shah paid off: Coach

Source: PTI
May 18, 2010 16:51 IST
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Indian hockey team's go-young policy paid off in the just-concluded Azlan Shah Cup and the team would keep on trying new faces in future tournaments as well, national coach Harendra Singh said.

India retained the Azlan Shah title in Malaysia with a relatively young side after four experienced campaigners - Prabhjot Singh, Sandeep Singh, Deepak Thakur and Adrian D'Souza - were axed from the team following their dismal showing in the World Cup.

Harendra lauded the selectors' decision to inject fresh blood and said performance, not past glories, would be the lone criterion for donning the national jersey.

"We went there (Azlan Shah Cup) to learn and play better hockey. We went there to try some new players and we did exactly that which is the most positive thing," Harendra said.

"The selectors were right in inducting new players in the Azlan Shah team because it was a big experience for them. We will continue to try out new players in the upcoming tournaments. It will help us in creating a broader pool of players before the Commonwealth and Asian Games," said Harendra.

Defending champions India shared the Azlan Shah Cup with Korea after the summit clash was washed out due to heavy rain.

"For a player, performance is the most important thing and not past glory. Whoever performs will be selected for India. A player cannot take his place for granted in the team," Harendra added.

He said India's success in the Azlan Shah Cup, where they beat top teams like world champions Australia, Pakistan and Korea en route the title, speaks volume of the team's improvement after their ordinary showing in the World Cup earlier this year, where they finished eighth out of 12 teams.

"In Azlan Shah, we executed all our plans accurately on the field. We were one step ahead of what we have done during the World Cup. Slowly we are learning to play as per the situation," Harendra said.

His views were shared by captain Rajpal Singh and forward Tushar Khandekar, who said Azlan Shah was a confidence booster not only for the youngsters but also for the entire squad.

"We improved on our game and worked on our mistakes which we committed during the World Cup. The win is a great morale booster for us, especially after the World Cup disappointment," Rajpal said.

Khandekar said, "The new players played their part in the tournament. They gained vital experience by playing against big teams like Australia and Pakistan."

Khandekar, however, was a little disappointed to have shared the trophy with Korea and said going by form, India were the overwhelming favourites in the abandoned final.

"Obviously, we are a little disappointed to share the trophy with Korea because we were pretty confident of beating the Koreans in the final.

"We were playing great hockey in the tournament and we defeated Korea in the round robin stage," he said.

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