Hockey-playing countries the world over go with one goalkeeper for major competitions, including the Olympic Games. But in India, it's different.
Hockey India (HI) looks set to retain PR Sreejesh — who has stood between the posts in all crucial matches of late, including the final of the Olympic qualifiers — as the first-choice goalkeeper. And, they also plan to include Bharat Chhetri, the skipper.
Generally, there is one goalkeeper in a 16-member squad and only if the squad's size is 18, is a reserve keeper included.
So, in London, while all elite teams, including Australia, Germany and the Netherlands, will have a single goalkeeper — and five potential substitutes on the bench —, India are likely to have two keepers and four substitutes on the bench.
Questioning HI's logic, a senior player said, “We went with one goalkeeper to the Commonwealth Games and Guangzhou Asian Games. So, why two for London?
"During the CWG and Asian Games, Chhetri was the only goalkeeper and one of the outfield players was trained to be a reserve, in case of an emergency. So, why isn't the same plan being implemented for London?" he questioned.
After Rajpal Singh refused to accept a Rs. 25,000 cash reward given to each player for winning the Asian Champions Trophy in September 2011, HI had replaced him with Chhetri as skipper.
The federation's reasoning was that they wanted to introduce a rotation policy. But,
till date, Chhetri continues to lead.
During the Olympic qualifiers in February, coach Michael Nobbs had used the services of both the goalkeepers, but Sreejesh was preferred for more important outings, including the final.
And, during last month's Olympics test event in London, Chhetri played one match, while Sreejesh starred in three.
At the recently concluded Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, both guarded the goal equal number of times.
In Chhetri's absence, Sardar Singh has stood as stand-in skipper. "A former Olympian had raised the issue of two goalkeepers a couple of months back at HI's meeting to nominate players for the Arjuna Awards. He had also questioned Chhetri's captaincy," said a senior HI official, who was present at the meeting.
The government observer for hockey, Harbinder Singh, told HT that he would be able to shed light on the matter after the selection trials in Pune (June 6-7). Questioned about Chhetri's place in the team, he said, "The selectors have always picked deserving players."