Hockey India names squad for Sultan Azlan Shah Cup

With four of the seven participating teams having qualified for Rio, the Azlan Shah Cup would be an important tournament for India as part of its preparations.

In preparation for the tournament, the Indian men’s team is currently undergoing a training camp that started on March 7 at the SAI Centre in Bangalore.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Several senior players have been rested ahead of the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament as the 18-member squad for India’s first international outing in 2016 was announced on Monday.

The team management has tried to test as many players as possible in an Olympic year. While Sardar Singh would continue to lead the side, goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh has been rested along with senior defender V.R. Raghunath. Both Sreejesh and Raghunath have been playing non-stop for almost two years now.

Others who were part of India’s bronze-winning effort in the Hockey World league Finals in Raipur last year, but have been excluded from the side include strikers Dharamvir Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Mohd. Amir Khan as well as Lalit Upadhyay. Midfielder Devinder Walmiki has also not been included while key defender Birender Lakra is recuperating from surgery in a race to be fit ahead of the Rio Games.

Besides India and host Malaysia, defending champion New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan, Japan and Canada would be part of the tournament. With four of the seven participating teams having qualified for Rio, the Azlan Shah Cup would be an important tournament for India as part of its preparations. The competition would be played in Ipoh, Malaysia, from April 6-16.

While young goalkeeper Akash Chikte finally gets a chance, two members of the junior side – defender Harmanpreet Singh and junior captain Harjeet Singh – have been included. Defender Surender Kumar, who impressed all by his excellent stickwork during the Hockey India League, has been rewarded while Nikkin Thimmaiah returns after recovering from injury.

“Being an Olympic year, this tournament will give us an idea where we stand. Playing against good teams like Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan will give the team critical competition exposure. It will be a good opportunity to try out new things and new combinations,” Sardar said.

Coach Roelant Oltmans said the team was concentrating on eliminating key weaknesses. “The boys have been working hard as a unit. In the past we have conceded late goals that have taken away the games from us. We want to eliminate that particular weakness and we are focused on implementing the right strategies.” said Chief Coach Roelant Oltmans.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Harjot Singh and Akash Chikte.

Defenders: Rupinder Pal Singh, Jasjit Singh Kular, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar and Harmanpreet Singh.

Midfielders: Danish Mujtaba, Chinglensana Singh, Manpreet Singh, Sardar Singh, S.K. Uthappa and Harjeet Singh.

Forwards: Talwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, S.V. Sunil, Ramandeep Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah.