Raghunath Confident of Getting Back into India Team

By Avishek Roy

Bhopal, June 18 (IANS) Karnataka's V.R. Raghunath says he has worked on his drag-flicking technique and also tightened his defence and is confident of getting back into the India team after his power-packed performance in the ongoing national hockey championship here.

The drag-flicker, who last played for India in the 2010 Azlan Shah Cup, shouldered Karnataka into the semi-finals, converting two penalty corners, including the golden goal in extra time, to pull his team out of a hole against Air India Thursday.

Raghunath has so far converted nine penalty corners and is the tournament's joint top scorer with good friend and fellow drag-flicker Sandeep Singh. They have scored 10 goals each.

"I have been out of the national team for a year now and it was a difficult period for me. I worked on my drag-flicking and also tightened my defence," Raghunath told IANS.

Ahead of major international tournaments like Champions Trophy and most importantly London Olympic qualifiers at home the Indian squad is all set to be reshuffled.

Raghunath is optimistic the selectors will keep two penalty-corner experts in the squad and he is confident of making the cut.

The Bangalore player was adjudged the best defender in the Obaidullah Cup tournament, played just before the nationals. He scored six goals for Indian Oil.

"I have had two good tournaments. I am hitting the ball well in the striking zone. I am also able to contribute in the defence. I am just waiting for an opportunity to get back into the team."

"The way hockey is played today, the team's dependency on penalty corners has increased, but it is not the only aspect that can win you matches. The overall game has to be good. The drag-flicker needs to be a good defender first. Defence is the priority, drag-flicking is a bonus," says the 25-year-old.

Sandeep has been India's first choice drag-flicker for sometime now. Diwakar Ram and Dhananjay Mahadik have played around Sandeep in the last year or so while Rupinder Pal Singh made a mark in the Azlan Shah.

Raghunath had replaced Sandeep in the 2007 World Cup squad when the latter was injured in a freak accident.

"We have quite a few drag-flickers and there is a healthy competition among us. Sandeep is a good friend. There are times when he goes through a good patch and there are times I have my days. Both of us are from the same batch and we have worked our way up to the national team. I feel good when he does well."

What helped Raghunath during his lean period is that he was called for all the national camps.

Jugraj Singh, who is in the Indian team support staff as a drag-flick expert, has been of immense help, says Raghunath.

"Len Aiyappa has also played an important role in my development. They have taught me a great deal about the art of drag-flicking.

"A good drag-flicker should have a healthy strike rate of 60 to 70 per cent, and I am touching that consistency."


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