Principal Correspondent

HYDERABAD: Indian hockey chief coach V. Baskaran feels that it is time to set up exclusive hockey coaching centres in the four different regions of the country to tap and nurse genuine talent. In a chat with The Hindu on Monday on the sidelines of the on-going preparatory camp for September's World Cup in Germany, the 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medallist felt the Indians were paying a heavy price for ignoring the importance of building reserve talent for more than a decade in the 1980s.

A big hit

Baskaran, who seems to have become a big hit with the players for introducing novel training methods and emphasising the importance of one-to-one communication both on and off the field, also stresses that it would not be a bad idea to start a separate school to groom penalty corner specialists.

"You may recall that even Pakistan`s Sohail Abbas was not known as a genius straight away. For the first two years, he was like any other player, but after his intensive coaching stints in Holland, he was a completely different player. It was all because of his zeal to excel under trying circumstances. The short- corner conversion department is manned by players who are essentially self-made," Baskaran explained.

The Indian chief coach says that he doesn't believe only a defender should be a drag-flicker.

"I don't see any reason why a Gagan Ajit Singh, who has a very good eye, or a Hari Prasad, who hits the ball very hard, should not be drag-flickers. It is always good to have players who double up as ball-players and drag-flickers," said Baskaran.

"It is really unfortunate that we had to miss the services of Jugraj Singh after the road accident. He was a wonderful drag-flicker. In 1997, he came to the camp when I was there and asked for balls to train on his own. Realising his tremendous interest, I ensured that he got enough practice on the astro-turf and within four years, he was the player India was looking for," he said. Players like Jugraj are born to be penalty-corner specialists and purely self-made, he asserted.

The finest

In Baskaran's view, the finest penalty-corner specialists are Bovelander, Paul Litjens, Surjit Singh, Sohail Abbas and Jugraj Singh.

"Now, Sandeep Singh is shaping up very well. These players developed skills on their own and all they needed in their careers was the right dose of confidence," the chief coach said. "Maybe, Len Aiyappa was not told about his strengths and weaknesses despite being a very good drag-flicker. My concept is that in contemporary hockey, you have to be a good all-round player too in order to ease the pressure on teammates and the coach," said Baskaran.

Not surprisingly, Baskaran, who is determined to script a new chapter in Indian hockey, is keen to have several options in the role of the team's drag-flickers instead of confining it to just one or two players. And this may be one of the most significant news from the on-going camp.

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