Principal Correspondent

KOCHI: State Bank of Travancore striker M.A. Abdul Hakkim will lead Kerala in the 61st Santosh Trophy. The 28-year-old international will be making his debut as the captain of the State team.

The 20-member team, announced by the Kerala Football Association President, K.M.I. Mather, and Secretary, K.P. Sunny, at Udyogamdandal on Monday, has seven players from SBT, four from Titanium and three from KSEB, all clubs based in Thiruvananthapuram. There are six newcomers.

"The team is young, fit and confident," said Hakkim, who has 12 international caps.

The team's new coach, former Services star K. Bharathan, is also positive.

"Our team is a mix of seniors and juniors. Scoring goals had been a problem during the last year, so this time we were concentrating a lot on shooting drills at the camp. If there is a small weakness, it should be in our defence," said the 63-year-old.

Kerala, which finished third in the last edition at Kochi, has been given a direct berth in the quarterfinal league and has last year's runner-up Maharashtra for company. The team, placed in Group `B', opens it campaign on October 15 at Gurgaon, Haryana. The other two teams in the group will be announced later.

The team: Goalkeepers: P.A. Jean Christian (Alp, SBT), Jinesh Thomas (Ekm, CPT), R.A. Renjith (Tvm, Titanium). Defenders: M. Abdul Basheer (Mlp, SBT), Jaseer Karnath (Mlp, KSEB), K.S. Joby (Tsr, KSEB), B. Deepu (Tvm, Titanium), R. Dhanarajan (Pkd, Viva Kerala), N.P. Pradeep (Idk, Mahindra United). Midfielders: K.M. Abdul Naushad (Pkd, SBT), Lanel Thomas (Tsr, SBT), R. Rajesh (Tvm, Titanium), Denson Devadas (Ekm, Viva Kerala), P.K. Anilkumar (Tvm, KSEB). Forwards: M.A. Abdul Hakkim (Pkd, SBT, captain), M. Mohammed Rafi (Ksgd, Mahindra United), T. Asif Saheer (Mlp, SBT), A. Bijish Ben (Ekm, Central Excise), D. Ebin Rose (Tvm, Titanium), A.G. Mohammed Aslam (Ksgd, SBT). Coach: K. Bharathan. Manager: Renji K. Jacob. Physio: Dr. Gigi George.

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