In Sreejesh’s absence, Indian team looks to step up

The Indian men’s hockey squad for the Hockey World League Semifinals was announced on Thursday and, in the absence of talismanic goalkeeper and captain PR Sreejesh, the squad would be looking to step up to the occasion.

Manpreet Singh will lead the side.   -  Getty Images

The Indian men’s hockey squad for the Hockey World League Semifinals was announced on Thursday and, in the absence of talismanic goalkeeper and captain PR Sreejesh, the squad would be looking to step up to the occasion.

The tournament, starting June 15 in London, is also a qualifying event for the World Cup next year and the World league Finals in December 2017, but with both events being hosted in India, the team has the luxury of simply trying for its best finish. India finished fourth in its previous outing in the competition in 2015. India has been grouped with Canada, Netherlands, Scotland and arch-rival Pakistan in Pool B.

The team would be led by midfielder Manpreet Singh with Akash Chikte and Vikas Dahiya manning the goalpost. Pardeep Mor, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar and Harmanpreet Singh would be responsible along with Rupinder Pal Singh for the team's defence while SK Uthappa, Satbir Singh and Ramandeep Singh return to squad after being rested for the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

“The idea was to bring in a couple of changes in positions after the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. There are three tours this year where we would like to give opportunities to younger players. Though we are taking a few players who are not that experienced, we still want to do well and the aim is to finish in Top Two at the HWL Semi-Finals and I look forward to see how the boys will perform against big teams,” chief coach Roelant Oltmans said.

Crediting the players for the team’s improved play and ball possession in Malaysia, Oltmans said the focus now would be on improving the scoring part. “Our style of play was good, we were fast and also when we compared statistics, we had better ball possession (62 per cent). But I would like to see our conversion rate in field goals and PC to improve from a 20 per cent and 24 per cent respectively,” the Dutchman added.

The 18-member Indian team would also be participating in a three-nation invitational tournament in Dusseldorf, Germany, ahead of the HWL Semifinals that would also feature Belgium with all teams playing each other twice. The squad, currently training in Bengaluru, would leave for Germany on May 29.

The squad

Goalkeepers: Akash Chikte, Vikas Dahiya.

Defenders: Pardeep Mor, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar, Rupinderpal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh.

Midfielders: Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, S.K. Uthappa, Satbir Singh, Sardar Singh, Manpreet Singh, Harjeet Singh.

Forwards: Ramandeep Singh, S.V. Sunil, Talwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh.

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