Special Correspondent

PUNE: Looking for a face-saving exit after six days of unity under pressure, the probables for the 2010 World Cup accepted the offer of Rs. one crore from IOA chief Suresh Kalmadi, guaranteed verbally. At this juncture, it is not clear to the 22 players as to whether the money is being paid by the IOA, Hockey India or whether Sahara India’s cheque will be handed over.

Prabhjot Singh, Deepak Thakur, Arjun Halappa and Adrian D’Souza said the players were happy that the money had been guaranteed by a top sports administrator, and were eager to return to the hockey turf.

These four had played a central part in holding the team together in the crisis, handling negotiations with HI officials and facing a torrent of questions from the media.

All of them are confident that the unity displayed over the last six days will extend to the 2010 World Cup too.

“Playing hockey is what we like to do. It was difficult to go through six days without training, that too with the World Cup next month. We also knew that the World Cup is the reason people will sit up and listen to us, hence the strong stand,” reasoned Thakur.

Halappa said: “The money we asked for as cash incentive will come, why ask about the source? This is the time to look ahead towards the WC preparations. The unity shown by players is important, we will continue in the same way.”

D’Souza is not worried about the six days lost due to the strike decision.

“Coach Brasa is already working on a new schedule. We will train hard from now on — once, twice or even three times a day if needed.” The support for the men’s squad from women’s national players in Bangalore and the men’s development team training in Lucknow does not surprise Prabhjot. “We are a hockey family and they know what we are doing here will benefit them too,” said the striker.

Thakur appreciated the support from all quarters in those six days of strife.

“On the team’s behalf, I want to thank all those who came out in support, with words and funds. It has made us stronger,” he said. India will commence the 2010 World Cup Hockey in New Delhi with a game against Pakistan, so the unity shown in adversity may be needed on the hockey turf.

‘Welcome resolution’

Meanwhile, former Indian captain and Olympian M.P. Ganesh welcomed the end to the crisis. Speaking to The Hindu in Bangalore, Ganesh said: “With the World Cup around the corner, it was not the time to indulge in petty politics. I hope all of the players’ demands will be addressed by the authorities and any settlement will have to be in black and white, so any new system that comes into place at Hockey India, honours it.”

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