The change of guard in the Indian hockey team got complete on Saturday with a new skipper joining the newly-installed coaching staff at the helm. Prabodh Tirkey, who had followed big brother Ignace into hockey, on Saturday completed a grand double for the family when he was named captain of the Indian team for the Azlan Shah Cup to be held at Ipoh, Malaysia from May 5.
Prabodh takes over from his Indian Airlines teammate Dilip Tirkey who led the squad in the Asian Games but was not considered because he is playing in the Dutch League and missed the trials.
Ignace, who led the country in the series against Pakistan early last year, has been included in the 18-member squad announced by the selectors at the Sports Authority of India's (SAI) Southern Centre in Bangalore subject to clearing a fitness test to be conducted in the next few days. Ignace was hit on the ankle of his left leg while playing a practice match against Karnatama State Police as part of Friday's selection trials. Though the SAI doctor had pronounced his injury as not serious, the selectors decided not to take chance and have kept Vickram Kanth as stand-by.
In case, Ignace is declared fit, he and Prabodh will be the second set of siblings in this squad along with drag-flicker Didar Singh and Sardara Singh.
The selection committee also picked three fresh faces in Sarwanjit Singh of Punjab and Sind Bank, Roshan Minz and Bharat Chikara (both of Indian Oil), giving impetus to the rebuilding process that was started with the appointment of Joaquim Carvalho as the chief coach with Mohinder Pal Singh and Ramesh Parmeshwaran his assistants and MM Somaya as the technical director.
Seasoned winger Prabhjot Singh was recalled to the squad after the Athens Olympics while teenager Bruno Lugun missed out his place because of an hamstring injury. "I would have loved to have him in the team but decided not to risk his injury. He a very talented forward and would get his chance later," Carvalho said.
Prabodh's appointment as captain, that reportedly raised much heat in the selection committee meeting, came as a surprise considering the presence in the squad of senior players like Rajpal Singh, who has led the Chandigarh Dynamos team for the last two years. But one reason why Rajpal or for that matter Ignace was not considered was that both of them were not in the original list of probables and were called midway through the camp by Carvalho.
Prabodh, however, has led the Indian Junior squad to tournaments in Poland and Lahore in 2003, and was picked for his leadership qualities among the few players in this squad who could have taken up the responsibility.
Chief coach Carvalho described the squad as a balanced one but said the senior members would be under the scanner and need to take charge. "The senior players will be on test and will have to prove themselves. For the youngsters, this will be a good exposure trip and they should utilise the opportunity to display their talent at the international level," he told
Carvalho said the team had players with all-round abilities who can play at a number of positions. "We need more such players so that we can build a good nucleus for the upcoming Olympic qualifiers," he said.
Though the selection of youngsters was a refreshing approach, the presence of too many players from the coaches' Indian Oil team will definitely lead to some tongue wagging. In all there are seven players from IOC and though youngsters like Roshan Minz and Bharat Chikara have impressed with their speed and skills upfront in the PHL, the same could not be said about the likes of Prabhjot Singh, Rajpal Singh, Didar Singh and Sardara Singh, who had failed to do much while playing for Chandigarh Dynamos and Hyderabad Sultans in the PHL.
Though goalkeeper Baljit Singh did well in the PHL, but Chennai Sreejesh would have fitted the selectors brief of bringing in the youngsters. The selectors seems to have given in to Carvalho's demands as he would obviously be comfortable dealing with the players he coaches on the domestic level.
But that leaves the chief coaches position susceptible to pressure in case his boys fail in Malaysia. In that case he would have to accept the selectors' choice without much questions in the future or pack his bags.
Bharat Chetri, Baljit Singh;
Harpal Singh, William Xalxo, V Raghunath, Bimal Lakra, Gurbah Singh, Prabodh Tirkey (capt), Sardara Singh, Ignace Tirkey,
Shivender Singh, Sarwanjit Singh, Didar Singh, Rajpal Singh, Prabhjot Singh, Bharat Chikara, Roshan Minz, Tushar Khandekar.
MP Singh and Ramesh Parmeshwaran.