Gurbaj, Raghunath left out of Hockey core group

Also missing is midfielder Devinder Walmiki, who played an important role in Kalinga Lancers lifting the HIL title this year, and Danish Mujtaba, both part of the Indian side at the Rio Olympics.

His brilliance on field notwithstanding, experienced midfielder Gurbaj Singh continues to be ignored by those responsible for selection matters in Indian hockey.   -  Special Arrangement

His brilliance on field notwithstanding, experienced midfielder Gurbaj Singh continues to be ignored by those responsible for selection matters in Indian hockey. The 33-member group of men’s probables announced by Hockey India on Friday has once again given Gurbaj the cold-shoulder even as it included 11 members from the recent World Cup winning junior side.

With chief coach Roelant Oltmans preparing for a new four-year cycle targeting the 2018 World Cup in India and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the list is expected to form the core of the Indian team for the next four years. Gurbaj, the highest paid Indian in the league, had been one of the few positives for Ranchi Rays. Even though Oltmans had stressed on HIL performances being important for selections, the omission of the 28-year old Gurbaj clearly indicates that he continues to be out of favour despite being among the fittest and most skillful players in the country at the moment.

Besides Gurbaj, some prominent names are also conspicuous by their absence. The biggest of them is that of experienced defender VR Raghunath, who not only led Uttar Pradesh Wizards to a third-place finish in the recent Hockey India League (HIL) but was also part of the leadership group in the national side for the past few years. Raghunath, however, had apparently indicated his wish to take a break after playing non-stop for the past few years, informing Oltmand about the same and keeping his options of returning open. Incidentally, Oltmans was also the UPW coach.

Also missing is midfielder Devinder Walmiki, who played an important role in Kalinga Lancers lifting the HIL title this year, and Danish Mujtaba, both part of the Indian side at the Rio Olympics. While defender Birendra Lakra finds a place despite not being match fit and still recovering from his surgery last year, Amit Rohidas has been rewarded for his rock-solid defending for winner Kalinga Lancers in the HIL. Former captain Sardar Singh and Rupinderpal Singh too have managed to their places despite a below-average outing during the HIL.

From among the youngsters, Mandeep Singh, Harjeet Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Vikas Dahiya, Dipsan Tirkey, Gurinder Singh, Sumit, Nilakanta Sharma, Manpreet, Simranjeet Singh and Gurjant Singh have made the cut. Apart from the Azlan Shah, the team would also prepare for the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in London in June.

The national camp would begin in Bangalore from March 15 to prepare for the Azlan Shah Cup in April, the first outing for the Indian team in 2017. The players would be joined by new strategy coach Hans Streeder and scientific advisor Scott Conway.

Core group

Goalkeepers: Akash Chikte, PR Sreejesh, Vikas Dahiya, Suraj Karkera. Defenders: Dipsan Tirkey, Pardeep Mor, Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar, Rupinderpal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Jasjit Singh Kular, Gurinder Singh, Amit Rohidas. Midfielders: Chinglensana Singh, SK Uthappa, Sumit, Satbir Singh, Sardar Singh, Manpreet Singh, Harjeet Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Manpreet, Simranjeet Singh. Forwards: Ramandeep Singh, SV Sunil, Talwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, Affan Yousuf, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Gurjant Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay.

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