Never thought I would lead India: Danish

For 24-year old Indian forward Danish Mujtaba being named the captain of the Indian hockey team for the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament next month came as a big surprise.

Mujtaba says, "It is a great feeling. Soon after I heard about it (being named captain), I was a bit nervous but then I told myself that I have been playing hockey for so many years so I should be confident. I keep talking to Sardar Singh and that has helped in bringing a level of maturity to my game. I never thought I would be made the captain of the Indian hockey team some day." Mujtaba also said that the captaincy was a reward for his past performances in the Indian team and in the Hockey India League, where he plays for Delhi Waveriders.

Regarding the new faces in the team, Mujtaba says: "The team announced features several young boys. Though I haven't played with many of them in tournaments I have a good idea about their game as on a couple of occasions, the camps of the seniors have coincided with the camps of the juniors and I have watched them all play. The HIL has also provided a good opportunity to the boys to have a first-hand knowledge of what competition at the international level is like. Last year India had to settled for a bronze and I am hopeful of an improved performance from the team." Before the challenge in Malaysia, however, Mujtaba will be part of the Indian side at the Hockey World League Round 2 in Delhi from February 18.

Larger picture

Hockey India selector Syed Ali says that a young team has been selected for the Azlan Shah tournament keeping in mind the larger picture.

"About 11 players in the team belong to the junior level. We had been watching them in the junior national camps since last year. Their performances in the HIL were also considered. The Junior World Cup will be held in India towards the end of the year. We want our team to do well in that. So letting them play in the senior team for Azlan Shah will provide them good competition exposure."

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