The selection committee of the Indian men’s hockey team decided to rest skipper Sardar Singh and ace drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh from the 18-member national squad that will be led by goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, for the FIH Champions Trophy in London from June 10-17.
It will be India’s last tournament before the Rio Olympics and the move to rest Sardar is part of the decision to rest some of the seniors to keep them fresh for the quadrennial extravaganza.
“It was pre-decided that Sardar will be rested for the Champions Trophy as he has been playing non-stop for quite some time. He played in the Azlan Shah where Sreejesh was rested. Here Sreejesh is leading the side and Sardar gets much-needed rest,” Hockey India president Narinder Batra told PTI on Tuesday.
“It also means that the coach (Roelant Oltmans) can check out a few youngsters and analyse what’s best possible combination we can have,” Batra added.
SV Sunil will be Sreejesh’s deputy in the squad which also has seasoned first team players like VR Ragunath, Kothajit Singh, SK Uthappa, and Akashdeep Singh to name a few.
Defender Harmanpreet Singh, one of the outstanding performers from the team’s silver medal-winning Azlan Shah Cup team, finds himself retained in the squad, and is joined by his junior colleagues, Harjeet Singh and Goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya. Dahiya will be a back up to Sreejesh in the squad.
Speaking after the squad announcement, Sreejesh said,”At the Champions Trophy, our aim will be to put in a class performance and finish as high as we can. Finishing with a medal at the tournament, will give us a lot of confidence going into the Olympics.”
Chief coach Oltmans also echoed the same sentiment, saying,”It is important that we approach the tournament, not just with a view to winning it, but also to execute our tactics well, and learn from past mistakes and keep evolving. This will ensure that, as a team, we are prime placed when we reach Rio, physically, mentally and tactically.”