The former hockey captain was selected for the Indian camp after the Hyderabad edition of the megaevent.

The National Games provide the perfect platform for India’s promising sportspersons to graduate to the international level, says hockey ace Dhanraj Pillay, who was selected for the India camp after taking part in the 1987 edition of the Games in Hyderabad.

Pillay made his India debut two years later and went on to dazzle the world with his dribbling skills and speed for 15 years, including at four Olympics, World Cups and Champion Trophies each.

Pillay hopes that the 36th National Games in Gujarat, from September 29 to October 12, will similarly throw up fresh talents who will then go on to wear the tricolour with distinction.   

“I was one of the many players picked up for the India camp after the Hyderabad National Games, which is the most important championship in Indian sport. I am happy the event is making its comeback after seven years and hope the national selectors will be present to pick new talents for the national camp,” said the 54-year-old former India spearhead who has scored over 150 goals in his 339 appearances for the ‘men in light blue’.

Pillay also highlighted the sporting benefits that would accrue to the people of Gujarat as a result of the infrastructure built to host the National Games, based on his own experience of what the 1994 edition did for his home city, Pune.  

“Pune has become a sports city after the birth of the Balewadi Sports Complex, which was built to host the 1994 National Games,” said Pillay, who is coming up with a national sports academy in Bengaluru. “It gave the city a different look and the same venue went on to host several international events over the years, providing a fillip to various sports in the region.”

Pillay hoped the infrastructure for the 2022 edition, which he felt was up to international standards, would inspire many youngsters to take to sports in Gujarat. He also expressed optimism that the facilities would be productively ulitised thereafter, and Gujarat would promote the venues (the Games will be staged in six cities across the state) and host many international events in future.

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