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Hunt for talent among juniors

HYDERABAD, DEC. 17. The two coaches — K.K. Poonacha and Narinderpal Singh — will get a clear view of the talent on hand when the India Juniors team takes on the visiting French team in the two `Test' matches scheduled at Gachibowli Hockey Complex here on December 21 and 23.

The Indian team had a rigorous training session this evening under the watchful guidance of the two coaches who also engaged them in a friendly match with a local outfit. "As we have just four days time before the first Test, we are essentially trying to have a close look at the talent available and then decide on who fits in which position," said Poonacha, the 1994 Sydney World Cupper.

The Junior Indian team, which is called as the developmental team as part of the efforts of the Indian Hockey Federation, to mould a winning team for the next year's Junior World Cup, will be picked from among the 25 probables who have gathered here. "Definitely, the emphasis will be on short-corners and the two goalkeepers — Thejus and Raja Rajan — will be given special attention to mould them into consistent performers," said the other coach Narinderpal Singh. "This is essential in modern hockey as the custodians can well decide the fate of a match," he added.

The four players from Services — Anup Kulu, Sanjeev Singh, Powal Lakra, Karthikeyan — are expected to play a lead role for the Indians against the French team, which is in India its preparations for the next edition of the European championship. Besides the two `Tests' against the Junior India team, the team will also play three `Tests' against the senior team in Delhi.

One of the main players to grab the attention of the coaches was Raja who was rated `best player' of the Asian under-16 championship in Dhaka recently, said Narinderpal.

"The focus will be on technique and tactics and we sincerely believe that the very purpose of hosting these Test matches would be achieved if the selectors find a winning combination for the bigger events ahead, said Poonacha.

The French team is expected to arrive here on December 19.

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