PUNE: Frustrated at not being picked for the Indian hockey squad for the past three years, ace hockey star Dhanraj Pillay gave a clarion call to national coach Joaquim Carvalho and Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) KPS Gill to consider him for national selection for major tournaments including Beijing Olympics next year.
Though Dhanraj doesn’t doubt the credentials of Carvalho as India coach, he was appalled at his mentor’s indifference towards him. “There is no reason why players like me and Len Aiyappa should not be playing for India. We still are fit and have passion for the game. I haven’t announced my retirement yet. I feel there's lot of hockey left in me. Carvalho and Gill should peep into my recent form and the way I am playing for my club,” he told Herald just before the felicitation programme at a city hotel here on Saturday.
Elaborating on Len Aiyappa's exclusion from the national side, Dhanraj said the burly drag-flicker has been cold-shouldered despite being the top-scorer in the last three PHLs.“Why haven’t the IHF included Len Aiyappa. He is the best drag-flicker available in the county at the moment. They didn't even bother to call him for the camp despite his exploits in the last three PHL tournaments,” Dhanraj said calling a spade a spade.
He said age should not be a criterion for selecting a player as long as he is performing for the country. “Age should not be the criteria. If a player is over thirty years and able to produce results, he should be playing for the country. Having senior players in the side helps the team to perform even better,” he said.
He pointed out that youngsters could imbibe many new skills by the mere presence of the seasoned campaigners. “Youngsters can learn many skills while playing with us. There is a marked difference between giving tips from the sidelines and playing with them. When many European countries like Holland do not have problems in fielding veteran players like George Lauby, what prevents IHF to select players like Len Aiyappa and me,” the highest goal scorer for India quipped.
Will that happen when his relations with KPS Gill have touched the lowest ebb? “I was not in touch with IHF after the ill-treatment meted out to me during the Athens Olympics. Relations have improved for now after I had a meeting with Gill recently. He has some wonderful ideas to promote hockey at junior level with my cooperation,” Dhanraj said.
Dhanraj was skeptical about the current Indian team’s prospects of winning major tournaments. “The team lacks killer instinct. There are far too many young and inexperienced players. Some of them don’t even deserve a place. They are poor in releasing and flicking the ball into the goal,” Dhanraj said.
Being a mercurial sprinter and a prolific goal-scorer himself, he was disappointed with Indian team's defence and forward line. “We need Baljit Singh Dhillon and Daljit Singh to excel in world hockey. Nor do we have distributors and penalty converters,” he said.
He said the IHF must pick the right players if India has to emerge as world-beaters. “We need to develop a formidable team to win an Olympic gold. Picture is grim for Indian hockey. It will take at least six years for us to become world-beaters. For this to happen, the IHF must be honest in picking the right players; do away with likes and dislikes and sacrifice favourtism,” he said.