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Best available team has been picked: Nobbs

Best available team has been picked: Nobbs

India hockey coach Michael Nobbs is confident of India's chances of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics.

New Delhi: Brushing aside the controversy surrounding the exclusion of former India captains Rajpal Singh and Arjun Halappa from the team picked to play the Olympic qualifiers, the coach of the Indian men’s hockey team - Michael Nobbs - says the team has been selected from the best available resources.

Hockey India (HI) on Monday announced the squad of final 18, which didn't include the names of Rajpal and Halappa. While the former has been deemed unfit due to his appendix operation, Halappa could find his name only among the four standbys.

"The team is picked on form and fitness and I think this is the group that we need for the next three weeks to qualify for the Olympics," Nobbs said while addressing a press conference here on Tuesday with captain Bharat Chetri and vice-captain Sardar Singh alongside him.

"Let me explain, there were six of us in that room there, with probably combined 16 to 18 Olympic games under our belt. I think we know what we are doing," the coach replied to questions surrounding the exclusion of Rajpal and Halappa.

"Selection policy is with the selectors of Hockey India. I'm not going into that [team selection]. We have to pick the best right now who can win games for us and that's what we have done. Now we need to focus on what we need to do in the next few weeks to qualify [for the Olympics]."

Rajpal had alleged that he was not given a chance to prove his fitness; however, the coach refuted that claim. "No, that's not the case," he clarified.

Chetri - who will lead India in the qualifiers - was visibly miffed when confronted with questions related to team selection.

"Are you trying to say that those who have been picked are not capable? The fit players who have been chosen are not the bad players. There are the selectors, Hockey India and coaches [who select the team]. Our job is to play as a team that has been chosen," the captain replied.

The team's vice-captain and star midfielder Sardar Singh also toed his coach's line while staying confident of an Olympic berth.

"I'm pretty sure we will qualify [for the Olympics]. No doubt they [Rajpal and Halappa] are excellent players, but if you had seen the South Africa series, those who performed the best are in the team now. The rest, as [Bharat] Chetri has said, it's the selectors of Hockey India who have picked the team," Sardar said.

India face Canada, France, Poland, Singapore and Italy in the qualifiers; and Nobbs said though no game can be taken lightly at the international level, he was confident of India's chances of winning the tournament and booking a flight to London.

"No team is going to be taken lightly. As I have said, there are no easy games at this level. We just have to prepare as well as we can and control all the things that we can control and try our best. I am quite confident [of Olympic qualification], provided nothing goes drastically wrong in these qualifiers," Nobbs concluded.

India will open their campaign on February 18 against Singapore, who got a lucky entry after USA withdrew from the tournament at the eleventh hour.