India hockey captain Chetri has comforting words for Arjun and Rajpal

India hockey captain Bharat Chetri says the duo, who were dropped from the 18-member team for the Olympic Qualifiers on Monday, are more than capable of making a comeback into the final squad for the London Games

India captain and goalkeeper Bharat Chetri is unfazed by all the controversy raked up after two senior players, Arjun Halappa (kept out of the 18-member team as stand by) and Rajpal Singh (not picked on fitness grounds) were left out of the national team that will play in the Olympic Qualifiers (February 18 to 26) at New Delhi's Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

Coach Michael Nobbs justified the duo's omission saying that the "team was picked on form and not reputation." While Chetri refused to elaborate on the Australian's statement, he felt there was no reason for his colleagues to feel upset at being dropped, as they are more than capable of staging a comeback into the final squad that will travel to the London Olympics later this year.

Arjun Halappa

Excerpts from an interview:

Are you happy with the 18-member squad picked for the Qualifiers?
Definitely! I think the selectors have done a good job and picked the right mix of junior and senior players to form this team.

What's your take on the absence of former captains Halappa and Rajpal?
I'm not permitted to attend selection meetings, so I had no say in this. It's a joint decision between the selectors, government nominees, coach and Hockey India. I cannot comment on why they were not picked.

Rajpal Singh

Both players have expressed their displeasure at not being picked. Have they spoken to you about this?
No. But I'd like to tell them that they should not be upset. Things like this happen. Even I've been dropped not once, but twice before � in 2004 and 2007, before I made a comeback in 2010. Arjun and Rajpal must remember that this is not the final team that will travel to the London Games. They can also make a comeback into the team after the Qualifiers.

But for them to make the Olympic-bound team, India must first qualify for the Games. What do you think are India's chances of making it to London?
I think our chances of winning the Olympic Qualifiers are  100 per cent. And I'm not saying this out of over-confidence, but I believe that Indian hockey deserves to be there.
We've got home advantage and have been practising for over a month now on the very same turf that willhost the Qualifiers in a little over two weeks from now. So there's no reason for us not to do well.

Also, you have an easy pool with teams like Canada, Italy, Poland, Singapore and France in the fray...
It's easy for people to say that we have an easy pool, but one must not forget that we don't have to win just one or two matches... we have to win the tournament. And for this, we cannot afford even one slip-up in between. We have to play well throughout, and that's surely not easy. We are not taking any team lightly.

Captaincy is relatively new for you, considering this is only your third tournament as skipper. How has it changed your role as goalkeeper?
I dont think it has affected my goalkeeping role much. I've always enjoyed motivating the players from behind, throughout a match. And I still do it. However, as captain it's nice to see young players emerging in this team. Players like Yuvraj (Valmiki), Kothajit (Singh), have worked hard and earned their places in this team. These players are the future of Indian hockey and I'm glad to lead this bunch ahead. Hopefully, we will taste a lot of success on
the way.

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