India hockey coach Michael Nobbs on Tuesday defended the decision to drop a few senior players from the squad for next month’s Olympic qualifiers, insisting that form and fitness were the only criteria for selection.

Former captain Rajpal Singh was dropped and Arjun Halappa was kept on standby in the squad that was announced by Hockey India yesterday for the Olympic Qualifiers.

Nobbs said he was happy with the team and only those have been selected who can win India matches during the qualifiers to be held at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here from February 18 to 26.

“I’m happy with the team. The selectors have unanimously decided to have this team on the basis of current form and fitness of the players, who can win the game for us. I’m 90—95 per cent confident we will qualify when the results are out on the judgement day,” Nobbs told reporters.

“In the last few weeks, we have spent time assessing the attack, defence, weaknesses and strengths of the players during the South Africa series and in the next couple of weeks we will work further on the various skills and strive for perfection,” he added.

Hurt to miss out on the qualifiers, Rajpal had yesterday questioned Hockey India’s decision to rule him “unfit” without even conducting his fitness test.

Asked why a senior player like Rajpal was axed, Nobbs said: “My job is to show no favour to reputation. We have picked the best players right on this time, inform players who can fit into the system and structure of the team.”

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