India suffer setback as defender Harpal Singh out with chicken pox

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Melbourne, Mar 13 (UNI) India's hockey campaign suffered a serious blow when star defender Harpal Singh was virtually ruled out of the Commonwealth Games due to chicken pox today.

The 22-year old dependable fullback is suffering from chicken pox and according to doctors it will take at least take 10 days for him to recover.

''It is a big setback,'' conceded chief coach Rajinder Singh.

''Harpal has been playing well, he was in good nick and we felt reassured with his presence in the defence.'' Talking to UNI, Rajinder said he will have now have to depend on Sandeep Singh and Kanwalpreet, because ''I can not even ask for replacement as two defenders -Dilip Tirkey and William Xalxo, who are in India, are also injured.'' ''We have good mid-field, with Ignace Tirkey, Prabodh Tirkey and Vikram Pillay in good form and we may even play Viren Rasquinha as right half. I was planning to put Harpal as a substitute right half but in his absence, Viren will have to do the job,'' he said.

The coach however was confident of a top spot in the pool.

''Though the absence of Harpal will be felt but I still think we have enough firepower to finish the league assignment on a happy note,'' he said.

Rajinder however added that ''Senior players will have to play with responsibility and convert every chance that they get.'' ''I think in this level of competition, you just can't afford to miss even a half chance leave alone a chance.'' The forwards are in good shape, said the coach but he lamented the fact that ''We still miss easy chances.'' Rajinder said India should have won the friendly match here against New Zealand which enede in a 2-2 draw yesterday.

''We should have won this match by five or six goals but forwards missed sitters.'' Sandeep Singh scored both the goals for India while New Zealand also converted two penalty corners.

''We dominated the proccedings, but Deepak Thakur missed two chances and Tushar Khandekar muffed an easy opening. Also we did not get one stroke so in all we wasted four goal scoring chances and no team can afford to miss such chances.'' The game against New Zealand was fast paced and India dominated most of the match but then against the run of play conceded penalty corners and muffed easy chances.

Rajinder said India's opening match against Malaysia ''Will be important'' and winning start was an absolute must.

''I am an optimist and hope that players will understand the importance of the winning start, a win in the first match will sort out lot of problems for us,'' he added.

UNI HSB PM KP1156

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