Dharamvir, Manpreet back in the squad

"We are taking a strong midfield team and there is a lot of emphasis on it. But this combination can later be changed. Nothing is fixed," says India's chief coach Roelant Oltmans.

Dharamvir Singh (left) replaces Danish Mujtaba in the midfield.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Manpreet Singh exults after scoring against the Netherlands in the Champions Trophy in Bhubaneswar last year. The midfielder is back in the Indian team after recovering from injuries.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Roelant Oltmans... trying out new combinations.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

Sardar Singh will lead the Indian team on its tour of New Zealand.   -  AP

Experienced midfielder Danish Mujtaba was on Wednesday dropped from the Indian hockey team selected for the tour of New Zealand, while Dharamvir Singh, Manpreet Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah made a comeback to the squad.

The team was picked from the 26 probables announced on August 31. Dharamvir and Manpreet, who have recovered from injuries, replaced Mujtaba and Talwinder Singh. Nikkin, who was dropped for the tour of Europe in August, will replace Mohd. Amir Khan in the forward-line of the 21-member experimental squad.

“Yes, you can say that Danish has not been picked for the tour. We are trying out different combinations. Of course, our main aim is the Olympics but we are also preparing for the Hockey World League (HWL) Final,” India’s chief coach Roelant Oltmans said.

“Danish is not going with us, but Dharamvir, Manpreet and Nikkin are back. We are taking a strong midfield team and there is a lot of emphasis on it. But this combination can later be changed. Nothing is fixed. We will continue trying new combinations.”

Oltmans, who is also Hockey India’s high performance director, has also selected four penalty corner specialists – Rupinder Pal Singh, V. R. Raghunath, Jasjit Singh Kular and Gurjinder Singh.

“We have to try out new combinations and new forms of execution to give the team the best possible chance,” explained Oltmans.

India will play four Test matches against Black Sticks on October 6, 7 (both in Nelson), 9 and 11 (both in Christchurch). They will also play two practice games on October 2 and 3 against New Zealand ‘A’ in Auckland.

The Hockey World League Final will be played in Raipur from November 27 to December 6 while the 2016 Olympics will be held from August 5 to 21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The squad was selected after a three-week preparatory camp at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here. The team will be led by Sardar Singh, with goalkeeper P. R. Sreejesh as his deputy.

“The boys are looking forward to the tournament and are confident of a positive show. Also Dave Staniforth recently held a three-week goalkeeping camp which has got the goalkeepers pepped up and they are waiting to exhibit what they learnt under the bar,” added Oltmans.

“It is a motivation to see a squad that oozes confidence. The team in the last couple of weeks has worked on coordination and passes. The idea is to convert when in the ‘D’ and not lose out on those moments.”

The squad:

Goalkeepers: P. R. Sreejesh (vice-captain), Harjot Singh.

Defenders: Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, V. R. Raghunath, Jasjit Singh Kular, Rupinder Pal Singh, Gurjinder Singh.

Midfielders: Sardar Singh (captain), Chinglensana Singh, S. K. Uthappa, Satbir Singh, Devinder Walmiki, Manpreet Singh, Dharamvir Singh.

Forwards: S. V. Sunil, Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Nikkin Thimmaiah.