Former trainees of Chandigarh Hockey and Football Academy (CHFA) Dharamvir Singh and Harjot Singh have been included in the 18-member Indian squad for the FIH Hockey World League semi-final to be played in Belgium from June 20 to July 5.
Dharamvir Singh, who plays in the midfield, has emerged as a vital cog in the Indian team in the last few years.
Following his stupendous show for the Indian side ever since he made debut for the Indian team in 2009, he recently achieved the distinction of playing his 100th international hockey match for his country.
He achieved the milestone during India’s 4-2 win against Australia in a Sultan Azlan Shah Cup league match last month.
On the other hand, young goalkeeper Harjot Singh, who belongs to village Amloh near Fatehgarh Sahib, has also proved himself on the big stage and established himself as a worthy successor to PR Sreejesh. He has earned nine caps for the senior Indian team.
However, another former CHFA trainee Rupinderpal Singh has been dropped from the team. Rupinderpal has been a key figure in India’s recent success.
Besides Rupinder, the other players dropped from the team are Uthappa, Mandeep Singh and Satbir Singh.
All the four dropped players featured in last month’s Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia, where India finished a creditable third, and the four-match bilateral Test series against Japan which India won 3-0.
Rupinder’s axing came as a shock for all and sundry as over the last couple of years he became an integral part of the Indian team and also formed a formidable duo alongside VR Raghunath in the side’s drag-flick department.
The team’s chief coach Paul van Ass justified his decision to axe Rupinderpal, saying it was a tactical move aimed at trying out “variations” ahead of the Rio Games. Van Ass clarified his choice and said by no means Rupinder was out of his scheme of things.
“Of course, I am aware about that (only one drag-flicker in the team) but Jasjeet also has a good penalty corner. It’s also time for us to try variations,” the chief coach said. “He (Rupinder) is not gone, he is not done. He didn’t do anything wrong but we also have to be prepared for any eventuality. Let’s be honest when Olympic starts and suppose your two drag-flickers are injured, what do you do then? So, it’s always a threat and its good to try out something else now,” Van Ass said.
Meanwhile, midfielder Sardar Singh will lead the Indian team in the tournament.
The League featuring ten teams is divided in Pool A and Pool B. India is placed in Pool A along with France, Poland, Pakistan and Australia whereas China, Ireland, Malaysia, Great Britain and Belgium are sited in Pool B.
Sardar, who has earned 216 International caps, will be supported by vice-captain PR Sreejesh.
India captain Sardar Singh too opined with his coach and said the changes were part of a specific plan.
With India already assured of a place in next year’s Rio Olympics, Sardar said there will no pressure on them in HWL Semi-final.
“There will be no pressure on us. We will just concentrate on our own game. We will take this tournament as a preparation for the HWL Final. We will try to work on our mistakes,” he said. “Our target will be to play our best hockey and if we can do that results will automatically follow.”
Playing their first match on 20 June 2015, India is slotted against France in their opening match of the tournament.
The Indian team is all geared up and motivated for the upcoming challenge and looking forward to giving a tough time to the opponents on the field.
Speaking on the announcement of the team, India chief coach Paul van Ass said, “The team is full of confidence which they proved in the recent Japan series where they gave Japan a tough time and beat them 3-0.”
“As they will be clashing with the finest of the teams, the boys are working upon their strategies and confident to put up a good show in the tournament. Their pool is tough but the boys are confident of putting up a great show. The team is excited to face Australia yet again.”