With Canada and Poland -- two of its opponents for February's Olympic Qualifiers - in the fray, Hockey India selectors have decided to test some combinations during the FIH Champions Challenge I to be held at Johannesburg, South Africa, from November 26-December 6.
Injuries and ill-health of key players like Rajpal Singh and Ignace Tirkey opened the door for coach Michael Nobbs to experiment and he has decided to give a chance to young forward Chinglensana Singh Kangujam and Birendra Lakra. Rajpal had undergone appendix surgery during the recent tour of Australia and had been advised rest for six weeks. Tirkey had aggravated a knee injury in Australia and has been replaced by forward Tushar Khandekar as vice captain.
"It is a chance for us to test some players and I will not bother about the results," Nobbs told HT at the camp in Pune.
Forwards Bharat Chikara, Ravipal and Gurvinder Singh Chandi have also been left out. Chandi would anyway had to sit out the first two matches because of the 5-match suspension he was handed after the brawl with Pakistan players in Australia. Striker Shivendra Singh returns from the freak collarbone injury he suffered during the Nationals in Bhopal in June. "We are trying to develop a core group of 33 players, three for each position in the field," Nobbs said. That probably is the reason why they have picked three drag flickers - Sandeep Singh, Rupinderpal Singh and VR Raghunath - in the 18-member squad.
The squad: Bharat Chetri (GK) (Capt.), PR Sreejesh (GK); Manjeet Kullu, Manpreet Singh, Rupinderpal Singh, VR Raghunath, Sandeep Singh; Gurbaj Singh, Sardar Singh, Arjun Halappa; Birendra Lakra, Sarvanjit Singh, Yuvraj Walmiki, SV Sunil, Danish Mujtaba, Tushar Khandker (vice captain), Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Shivendra Singh.