Manpreet Singh to lead India in Hockey World Cup

The Hockey India (HI), on Thursday, announced an 18-member squad, which does not feature seasoned campaigners, SV Sunil, Ramandeep Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh.

Manpreet Singh needs to lead from the front as India begins its campaign in Bhubaneswar from November 28.   -  Getty Images

It may well be curtains for experienced SV Sunil after the forward was excluded from the Indian squad for the upcoming Hockey World Cup on Thursday. Besides Sunil, Rupinder Pal Singh and Ramandeep Singh have also failed to make the cut as the team management put its faith in youngsters for the prestigious event.

As many as six players from the title-winning 2016 Junior World Cup squad have made it to the final-18 that would continue to be led by Manpreet Singh. However, barring Manpreet, goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh, defender Birendra Lakra and Akashdeep Singh, there is little experience but enough potential in the ranks.

Lakra, who missed out on the Asian Champions Trophy last month due to injury, comes back after rehabilitation but the absence of Rupinder would add pressure on Sreejesh under the bar. It would also increase the responsibilities on Harmanpreet Singh during penalty corners – though Varun Kumar and Amit Rohidas can both back him up, they are hardly used by coaches for reasons unknown.

It is in the attack that India has taken the biggest risk, preferring to go with the talented but untested and inexperienced Hardik Singh and Dilpreet Singh to join Akashdeep, the senior-most player upfront. He has been struggling for a while now, however, and in the absence of Sunil and Ramandeep – both calm heads with oodles of experience -- it remains to be seen how the youngsters handle the pressure of the big stage.

Both Sunil and Ramandeep had been struggling to return to fitness after sustaining injuries but had been included in the national camp starting earlier this month after showing progress in their rehabilitation. Rupinder’s exclusion, however, might well be the final warning sign for the senior pro to up his game.

Even the midfield appears uncertain with Manpreeet and his deputy Chinglensana expected to handle the bulk of responsibilities with the rest mainly playing supporting roles. But coach Harendra Singh insisted this was the best possible combination. “We have chosen the best available combinations for the World Cup.

“We had to make some tough decisions out of a very strong pool of 34 players. The final 18 are a mix of experience and youth and have been selected on the basis of their current form and fitness. These players have consistently shown their potential and I am confident India will put up a fighting performance,” Harendra, who led that victorious junior side in 2016, said.

The core group would continue to train in Bhubaneswar till November 23. India opens its campaign in Pool C against South Africa. World No.3 Belgium and Canada are the other teams in the pool with the team at the top qualifying for the quarterfinals and the next two fighting it out in the cross-overs.

The squad

GOALKEEPERS: PR Sreejesh, Krishan Bahadur Pathak 

DEFENDERS: Harmanpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh Khadangbam, Surender Kumar, Amit Rohidas.

MIDFIELDERS: Manpreet Singh (Captain), Chinglensana Singh Kangujam (Vice Captain), Nilakanta Sharma, Hardik Singh, Sumit.

FORWARDS: Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Simranjeet Singh.