Top hockey talent pool drying up: Tirkey

Top hockey talent pool drying up: Tirkey
Bhopal: A year ago Dilip Tirkey announced his retirement from the hockey field. Today he is here as a government nominee on the national selection committee to tap the talent pool in the country and feels sad it is "drying up" at the top.

The soft-spoken Tirkey gave up playing at 32 when it was diagnosed that his leg muscles were too weak to keep pace with the speed of modern hockey. And he has played 412 international matches, the most by any player in the game`s history.

He is still actively involved with the game, overseeing its development in his native Orissa and the neighbouring Chattisgarh.

"Now it is a different experience for me, I am responsible for nurturing the hockey talent in the country," Tirkey, 33, told IANS. “The approach to develop hockey has to be systematic, it has to start right from the grassroots. As a government observer, I have some ideas and I will definitely discuss them with the sports ministry," says Tirkey, who has played in three World Cups and in as many Olympics, Champions Trophy tournaments, Asian Games and Asia Cups.

Tirkey is confident that India can get through the Olympic qualifiers, their none-too-happy performance in the Azlan Shan Cup notwithstanding.

"We have some good results last year. We have beaten European champions England, we have beaten Pakistan many times and we have made the Commonwealth Games final. These are the positives we should look at, though the results could have been more consistent.

"We cannot think of winning an Olympic gold or World Cup in the near future as we have to cover a vast distance to catch up with top teams of the world. We are ranked lowly and we have to be realistic about our chances. We have to slowly work our way up."

After seeing what happened in the Beijing Olympic qualifiers, the players realize the importance of qualifying for the London Olympics. Time is short and they have to train hard," says the former captain.

Tirkey, who is working with the Orissa government`s sports academy in Bhubaneswar, says the "talent pool at the top is drying up because we do not have a good developmental side as a supply line for the national team".

"It is important to have a developmental side of high standard. If some of our experienced players get injured then the youngsters should be in a position to step in, but it is unfair to expect them to start showing results straightaway. A new recruit has to at least 50-60 matches against international teams to be ready."

Tirkey says it is not that the Indian hockey cupboard is bare. There are quite a few talented juniors but they need to be properly groomed and shown direction.

"The grassroots level is where we have to groom the players. The focus should be on nursery, junior and sub-junior. It is also necessary to train the coaches because ultimately they are the ones who will teach the youngsters."


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