KOLKATA: Shattered after persistent ankle injuries dropped curtains on his career, former captain Dilip Tirkey is contemplating coaching, for he believes he still has a lot to offer to Indian hockey.
Considered one of the toughest defenders in the world in his pomp, Tirkey wants to hone the skill of young tribal players from his home district of Sundargarh in Orissa, now known more for Maoist activities.
"We need to groom the young, talented players and give them exposure. I want to coach them but things are yet to be finalised," the unassuming former Indian captain said.
Saddened by the way his career ended, Tirkey said he had hoped to finish on a high by playing in the recent FIH World Cup in Delhi and the two upcoming meets -- the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.
"It was a packed year with three big tournaments. I wanted to call it a day on a high, bringing laurels for the country in all the three tournaments. But it did not happen," he rued.
On his retirement from international hockey, Tirkey said, "It was a very tough decision to make. Both my ankles were not holding up for about five-six months. All my efforts to recover went in vain. They would heal and resurface again when I started practising. So I had to give up eventually.
"It was a very very sad end to my career. I am really disappointed, it has shattered me," he said.
The Orissa stalwart, who announced his retirement from international hockey in Bhubaneswar on Sunday, represented the country in 403 matches in a career spanning 15 years and said India's performance in the 2007 Asia Cup was the defining moment of his career.
"Triumphs in the 1998 Asian Games and the 2003 Afro-Asian Games will be the two other big moments of my career. But it was our 7-2 win over Korea in the Asia Cup final in Chennai that I will always cherish. They were a strong side and we trounced them", Tirkey, who played his last match in the Asia Cup last year, said.
Having represented India in three consecutive Olympics from 1996 -- captaining the team in Athens in 2004 -- Tirkey said he still regretted India's performance in Sydney (2000).
"We failed to make the semis despite a good run. A last-gasp equaliser by Poland in the pool game ended the match 1-1 and India missed out on a berth in the last four. It cost us dear as we finished seventh after a 3-1 win against Argentina in the classification match. That was really sad," he rued.
Another disappointment was when India failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics after going down to Great Britain in the qualifiers in Chile last year.
"We did well overall but it was in the the qualifiers where the team was not consistent. One bad run and it was over. It will always remain a blot," said Tirkey, who made his debut in the Indira Gandhi Gold Cup in 1995.
There was a time when the Indian defence was manned by Orissa players Tirkey and William Xalxo guarding the back-line with the help of the Tirkey brothers-- Prabodh and Ignace--- both mid-fielders.
Reflecting on the recently concluded World Cup in Delhi where no player from his state figured in the Indian team, Tirkey said most of the Orissa players were on the injured list.
"But there are a number of players from the state like Innocent Kullu, Manjeet Kullu and Belshazar Horo who are talented juniors from Sundargarh district," Tirkey said.
Having seen the ups and downs of the Indian hockey in his long career, Tirkey said the players had failed to cope with the need for pace and perfection.
Tirkey also argued for a second team at the national level to groom youngsters.
"Beside the main side, we need to have a second string 'A' side, allow them a lot of exposure so that they can replace the main players any time," he explained.
Tirkey felt the game also needed to be popularised in the big cities.
"We need to promote and popularise the game in metros. There is a need to organise international matches so that children can see the stars in action. They need to be motivated.
"I had grown up watching Pargat Singh. He was the best deep defender when I was young. I saw him as my idol. For this to happen, we need to involve corporates and develop infrastructure," he said.
Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin made her second appearance at an NHL game Friday night as she dropped the puck prior to the St. Louis Blues' tilt against the Los Angeles Kings. By all accounts she was more well-received than Palin's appearance at a Philadelphia Flyers game earlier this month.
While Blues fans gave the self-professed "hockey mom" a relatively warm reception, they may not have been too happy when they learned that Blues starting goaltender Manny Legace injured his hip flexor by slipping on the red carpet put out for Palin as she walked out on the ice for the ceremonial opening faceoff. Legace sat out the second and third periods of the Blues 4-0 loss to the Kings.
"I went to go step on the ice and the (security guard) says, 'Watch the carpet,'" Legace said. "He had his foot there holding it, so I figured it would be safe to step on it if he's holding it and the other end is secure.
"As soon as I went to step down, he took his foot off the carpet, and the carpet just shot out and my leg kept going, and my other one was still on the bench. I felt the pull right away.
I could define Elena Dementieva as a hockey WAG, I was overjoyed. This blonde bombshell is one of the sexiest tennis players in the world and now she is one of the sexiest hockey WAG's in the world.
Maxim should be considered a lucky man for scoring with this tennis star, pun was intended.
Following recent activities on and off the pitch, Paddy Power have revised their odds on who will be the most snapped England WAG during the World Cup finals - with Abbey Clancy all the rage and Cheryl Cole on the drift.
Peter Crouch almost certainly booked his seat on the plane to South Africa with a brace of goals against Egypt at Wembley and that is good news for followers of his girlfriend Abbey, who has been cut to 5/2 for this market.
Cheryl, on the other hand, has been eased out from a hot favourite to 3/1 after splitting up with husband Ashley Cole, who is currently also sidelined with an injury.
David Beckham is not yet fully assured of a place in Fabio Capello's squad but WAG queen Victoria Beckham is still a 6/4 market leader here in anticipation of her husband getting the nod.
Wayne Rooney will be the first name on England's team sheet if fit and his spouse Coleen Rooney is a 6/1 chance, but Alex Curran is out to 16/1 after reportedly being told to stay at home until the semi-finals by Steven Gerrard.
This bet applies to individual photographs published in the UK editions of red top tabloids from the day of the opening ceremony until the day of the final.
Cheryl Cole, meanwhile, is 9/4 with Paddy Power to be seen attending an England match during the World Cup finals and 2/7 to snub the Three Lions' bid for glory.
With the Daily Mail reporting the Girls Aloud star has agreed to have counselling with husband Ashley desite their public separation, the Irish firm are also betting on her marital status at the end of the year.
Punters can get 10/11 the X Factor judge is still married, 6/4 she is divorced by then and 4/1 officially separated.