Following the indefinite postponement of the Hangzhou Asian Games owing to the rise in Covid-19 cases in China, former India men’s hockey team captain Dilip Tirkey on Sunday said that the authorities should send a full-strength squad to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games (CWG) now.
Further expressing his disappointment over the postponement of the Asian Games, Tirkey said India had an excellent chance to win the competition and directly qualify for the Paris Olympics 2024.
“I am of the opinion that Hockey India (HI) must send its No. 1 teams in both the men’s and women’s disciplines to the Birmingham CWG. It was understandable to send your ‘A’ teams for the CWG when the Asian Games weren’t postponed. The players would have found it difficult to peak (in both the events). Now I see no reason for not sending our best players to the CWG. It’s an important event in the sporting calendar year and some tough hockey-playing nations like England, Australia and New Zealand participate in it. So, I want our main team to go and compete,” said the former India captain.
In March this year, HI had named former captain Sardar Singh and ex-striker Deepak Thakur as coaches of the Indian men’s and women’s ‘A’ hockey teams, which will take part in the CWG.
This was after HI had decided against sending the main squads for the multi-sport event due to the short turnaround between the CWG and the Hangzhou Asiad.
The three-time Olympian said that India was poised to corner gold medal glory at the Asiad, riding on its current form owing to the men’s team’s No. 1 position in the FIH Pro League.
“I was pretty confident of our victory at the Asiad. The form and momentum were with us. It would have helped to secure your qualification for the Olympics two years in advance. But, I don’t think the postponement is an ideal situation for us. By the time the Asiad will come next year, quite a few of our senior India players will retire. Only a year’s time would be left to prepare for Paris 2024. I am not happy with the postponement. But, at the same time, one has to understand the situation and value of human lives,” he said.
Tirkey also advised the Indian team — don’t wait till the Asiad to qualify for the Olympics. “The boys should try to qualify from one of the continental qualification tournaments next year if there are any planned by the FIH prior to the Asiad,” he signed off.