Keeping in mind the Junior World Cup, to be held in December at home, the Hockey India (HI) selection panel decided to blood several youngsters in the men's team for the World League Round II, which will be held in the Capital from February 18-24.
"This will enable the youngsters gain valuable experience in the build-up to the Junior World Cup," said Syed Ali, a member of the selection panel.
Among those who impressed the selectors include Mandeep Singh, the second-highest goal scorer in the Hockey India League (HIL). Malak Singh is another youngster to get a berth in the 18-member squad, which will be led by Sardar Singh.
The selectors have also picked Gurjinder Singh, who played the World Series Hockey, conducted by the rival Indian Hockey Federation, hinting that performance was not overlooked.
After the World League, which features teams that are below India in world ranking, HI could make changes in the squad for the tougher Round III and other international events like the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
"Players who have been dropped this time need to prove themselves," said Syed Ali, on giving another chance to some of the seniors.
Apart from drag flicker Sandeep Singh, who missed a berth for the third time in a row, former skipper Bharat Chettri, Shivendra Singh and Tushar Khandekar have also been overlooked.
After the London Games, Sandeep was dropped for the Champions Trophy (in Melbour-ne) and Asian Champions Trophy (in Doha) for poor form (see box). VR Raghunath, Rupinderpal Singh and Harbir Singh are the three defenders in the team.
The 18-member women's squad will be led by Ritu Rani while Chanchan Devi will be her deputy.
By virtue of their world ranking, India got a bye in the first round of the World League, which is a qualifier for the 2014 World Cup. In Round II, it will be a cakewalk as the other teams in the round-robin event are ranked lower. Compared to India's current ranking of 11th, Ireland are 15th, China 18th, Oman 36th, Bangladesh 40th and Fiji 71st. The preparatory camp will start at the National Stadium on February 11.
In the women's category, apart from hosts India (world ranking 12th), Japan (9th), Russia (20th), Malaysia (22nd), Kazakhstan (33rd) and Fiji (59th) are the teams in the fray.