'Tirkey presence a boost'

Team working extremely hard on defence: Chetri

 India's men's hockey team is tightening their defence under Dilip Tirkey and the players feel the presence of the former fullback has come as a positive move ahead of the Olympic qualifiers, beginning at the Major Dhyan Chand National stadium on February 18.

Goalkeeper and India skipper Bharat Chetri appreciated the efforts of Tirkey, now a government observer with Hockey India, and said the team is working hard to mend their lapses in defence.

“It is a good thing that he is helping us out. He has been helping us fine tune our tackling, positioning and man-to-man marking. We have Jugraj Singh working with us for dragflicking and Michael Nobbs helping with the fine line. So, the preparations are going well and we are looking forward to the qualifier,” Chetri said.

“We are working a lot to strengthen our defence, though, it won’t be fair to blame them for everything. In South Africa, during the Champions Trophy the defence line did a very good job,” he said.

Besides Ignace Tirkey, experienced dragflicker Sandeep Singh is the only one who has played in the Olympics. Sandeep said Tirkey's presence has boosted the side's preparations for the qualifier.
“Dilip has a lot of experience. He belongs to the school which believed in playing attacking hockey. His inputs are valuable. Indian hockey is all about attack and he is working on how to tackle counter-attacks from the opposition,” he said.

“The team is ready for qualifiers and we are confident of qualifying.”

India coach Michael Nobbs said the team cannot afford to take anyone lightly. India face Canada, Singapore, France, Italy and Poland in the qualifier. “There will be no easy game as all the teams are playing to qualify. We do have a better team but we cannot be complacent,” Nobbs said.

The team has been practising with 32 probables even though the names of 18 shortlisted players have been announced. They have been playing practice matches with ONGC and PNB and mostly under the floodlights as their matches in the qualifiers are scheduled for late evening. A video session will also be organised for watching teams like Italy and France — teams most of the players have not faced before.

The women's team has played a few matches with the local boys under-16 team and will be playing a warm up match against Canada next week.

Chikara in

Experienced forward Bharat Chikara is set to replace Arjun Halappa as a stand-by in the team for the Qualifiers after the former captain left the national camp following his omission from the main squad, adds PTI.

“Bharat (Chikara) is training with the team and will replace Arjun as a stand-by. Arjun left the national camp, disappointed with his omission from the main squad,” a Hockey India selector said.
DH News Service

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