Must focus on team needs, says Rajpal

Must focus on team needs, says Rajpal

A little more than three years ago, the eight-time gold medallists failed to seal a berth in the Beijing Olympics after suffering a heart-breaking 2-0 loss to underdogs Britain in the final qualifying tournament at Santiago, Chile, a defeat that plunged the national game to its lowest point.

While Hockey India kicked off the preparatory phase for London in earnest by appointing foreign coach Michael Nobbs and roping in 48 probables for a national camp that is currently underway at SAI here, the process suffered a blow on Thursday when five senior players ditched the camp to attend the ‘rebel’ World Series Hockey press conference at Mumbai on Thursday.

“I really can’t comment on the players who decided to leave the camp,” said Rajpal referring to Prabhjot Singh, Adrian D’Souza, Arjun Halappa, Sardar Singh and Sandeep Singh’s move. “A person from Nimbus did approach me as well and there was a bit of pressure from his side. The most important thing in my mind right now is qualifying for the Olympics and every step we take over the next five months is crucial. So, I told him straightaway that I cannot attend the press conference.

“All of us have assembled here with the sole aim of grooming the squad for the Olympic qualifiers. Nothing else should come in between. The disappointment of last time is still fresh in my mind. The opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics -- August 8 -- coincided with my birthday and I dreamt of celebrating it there. But, sadly, it did not happen. However,
I’ve got another chance and I want to celebrate my next birthday -- 30th -- at London.

This is my only dream and aim now,” added Rajpal, who on Friday was also nominated for the prestigious Arjuna award. The World Series Hockey is scheduled to be held between December 12, 2011 and January 22, 2012. The very timing of the $3 million prize money tournament is what that could prove detrimental to India’s chances of earning a London ticket as it is sandwiched between the Champions Trophy and the Olympic qualifiers.

“Our new coach Michael Nobbs and exercise physiologist David John have a plan in their minds and want us to be in peak fitness and form before the qualifiers. There are chances that an important player could suffer a major injury in WSH.

“If the coach tells us not to play WSH then we should listen to him. As a player we most often fail to study our body. But, a coach will always know in what condition your are in. We need to have our best XI for the Olympic qualifiers and if Nobbs tells me to skip WSH, I will do so,” added the forward.

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