Indian team selected on basis of fitness: Nobbs

New Delhi: India hockey coach Michael Nobbs on Tuesday defended the decision to drop a few senior players from the squad for next month`s Olympic qualifiers, insisting that form and fitness were the only criteria for selection.

Former captain Rajpal Singh was dropped and Arjun Halappa was kept on standby in the squad that was announced by Hockey India yesterday for the Olympic Qualifiers.

Nobbs said he was happy with the team and only those have been selected who can win India matches during the qualifiers to be held at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here from February 18 to 26. "I`m happy with the team. The selectors have unanimously decided to have this team on the basis of current form and fitness of the players, who can win the game for us. I`m 90-95 per cent confident we will qualify when the results are out on the judgement day," Nobbs told reporters.

"In the last few weeks, we have spent time assessing the attack, defence, weaknesses and strengths of the players during the South Africa series and in the next couple of weeks we will work further on the various skills and strive for perfection," he added.

Hurt to miss out on the qualifiers, Rajpal had yesterday questioned Hockey India`s decision to rule him "unfit" without even conducting his fitness test. Asked why a senior player like Rajpal was axed, Nobbs said: "My job is to show no favour to reputation. We have picked the best players right on this time, inform players who can fit into the system and structure of the team."

Grilled further to give an explanation for dropping the senior players, Nobbs retorted saying: "Are you suggesting we should pick players with reputation and not form? It is a unanimous decision and Hockey India selectors are all experienced people and there is a selection policy."

Nobbs said it was tough for him to take such hard decisions but insisted this was the right time for change and support young players. "We want to have a healthy competition among 33 players, where three players are fighting for a place. We need to support the young players and take some tough decisions. I don`t like to drop players, it hurts. I myself was dropped as a player but then change is difficult and this is change," he said.

Talking about the rival teams whom the hosts will play during the Olympic qualifiers, Nobbs said India will not take any side lightly. "It might seem easy but easy is a relative term and we are not taking any team lightly, doesn`t matter if it is Singapore, ranked 41 or Canada, we will try to control things which we can," he said.