Raghunath to lead India in Sreejesh's absence

V.R. Raghunath, who was rested in last month’s Asian Champions Trophy, will captain the 18-member squad in the absence of Sreejesh, who is recuperating from a knee injury sustained during the semifinal of the ACT against Korea in Kuantan, Malaysia.

Raghunath hockey AP

V.R. Raghunath will return to the squad to lead the Indian men’s hockey team in the four-nation tournament in Australia.   -  AP

V.R. Raghunath will lead the Indian hockey team in the absence of the injured P.R. Sreejesh during its tour of Australia. India is set to travel to Australia later this month to play a four-nation tournament, starting November 23, followed by a Test series against the home side.

Sreejesh is yet to recover from the knee injury he sustained during the penalty shootout against South Korea in the semifinal of the Asian Champions Trophy. Akash Chikte, who turned in a fine performance in the final of the ACT, will take his place in goal.

S.V. Sunil, meanwhile, has still not completely recovered from the wrist injury he sustained at the Rio Olympics. He will be absent from the touring party, as will Ramandeep Singh, who filled in for Sunil at the ACT but is now injured.

Raghunath was confident of a good showing in Australia. "The Asian Champions Trophy win has boosted the morale of the players and the team's spirit is high. However, playing in Australia is a different challenge and we are up for it. We have beaten Australia in their home earlier in 2014 Test series and look to repeat similar performance this time too," he said.

Sreejesh to train junior 'keepers

Injury may have kept P.R. Sreejesh out of the Indian senior squad for the Australia tour, but it will not keep him away from the hockey turf. While he undergoes rehabilitation at the SAI here, Sreejesh will work with goalkeepers from India's junior team, as they prepare for next month's World Cup. "Sreejesh has already starting working with them and will assist Dave Staniforth (goalkeeping coach), who is joining us next week. This is great for the young boys and sharing his experience with them will be valuable ahead of the Junior World Cup," said said chief coach Roelant Oltmans, who will remain in India to work with the Junior team. The strategic coach, Roger van Gent, will instead accompany the Senior team to Australia.

"Since I am anyway injured and have no assignment, I felt this would be the best thing to do," he said here on Friday. "For them, the Junior World Cup is the biggest tournament of them all. By joining them as a mentor, I can share my experiences with them and secondly, I can teach them how to control their emotions and handle the on-field pressure. I will also be able to give them the correct advice so that they don’t make mistakes - modern hockey is different from the old style. Lastly, it will be a learning for me as I can analyse my own errors by looking at them. I see it as a give-and-take policy.”

The 30-year-old added: "When I was a junior, there was no specialist mentor. Whatever I am today is because of Adrian D' Souza. I tried to copy him and he told me to carve out my own style. Bharat Chhetri also helped me out."

Sreejesh stated the 'keepers had weaknesses to be worked on. "I have been going through their videos. They have good defence against penalty corners but every team has an area where they need to improve. The goalkeepers (Vikas Dahiya, Krishan Pathak and Suraj Karkera) all have their weak points and we need to correct them properly by not making them worry too much about those weaknesses."

Team:

Goalkeepers: Akash Chikte, Abhinav Kumar Pandey.

Defenders: Rupinder Pal Singh (vice-captain), Pardeep Mor V R Raghunath (captain), Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar.

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

Forwards: Talwinder Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Affan Yousuf, Mohammad Amir Khan, Satbir Singh, Akashdeep Singh.