Former India hockey player VR Raghunath says a strong domestic circuit has created a big pool of talented players, who are competing hard to make it to the national squad.

The recent encounter between Indian Oil Corporation and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd at the Bangalore Cup All India hockey tournament ended in a 5-5 stalemate after a fierce fight.

“I feel the pool of players in the national core group is bigger than ever before. Almost all the 33 players in the Indian core group today have international experience and there is healthy competition within the group to play for India,” Raghunath, who was known for his fierce dragflicks and disciplined defence in the Indian team, said.

Captaining the IOCL at the Bangalore Cup, Raghunath said his team alone has at least five players who are vying to return to the Indian men’s core group.

“Some of the players who have been left out of this group need to really work hard and show their worth so they are in reckoning again.

“Players like forward Sumit Kumar in our team got a call-up to the national squad following the exceptional performance for IOCL at the domestic tournaments,” Raghunath said ahead of their semi-final match against hosts Karnataka.

Players such as Talwinder Singh, Affan Yousuf, Manpreet Singh Junior, Vikramjit Singh and goalkeper Pankaj Kumar Rajakt of IOCL have been part of the Indian team core group in the past.

BPCL too have Junior World Cup winning captain Harjeet Singh, Abharan Sudev, Junior India player Rabichandra Moirangthem, goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya of Junior World Cup fame waiting to receive a call-up from national selectors.

“If you see in the last six weeks alone, these players have taken part in two consecutive tournaments and have played nearly 10-12 high-quality matches.

“With India playing Pro League next year, many of these young players stand a great chance to wear India colours again and they just need to keep working hard, play regular domestic matches for their respective teams and not lose hope,” he added.