Plagued by injuries, India today named a young 18-member squad to be led by the inspirational Sardar Singh in the crucial Asia Cup hockey tournament scheduled from August 24 to September 1 in Ipoh, Malaysia.
With four key strikers -- Danish Mujtaba, S V Sunil, Gurwinder Singh Chandi and Akashdeep Singh -- ruled out of the tournament due to injuries, India has fielded a young and inexperienced five-member forwardline which has two new players -- Ramandeep Singh and Nikin Thimmaiah. Nithin Thimmaiah, Mandeep Singh and Malak Singh are the other three strikers in the squad. Defender Amit Rohidas is the other entrant in the Asia Cup-bound team which will also witness the return of mid-fielder S K Uthappa. Goalkeeper P R Sreejesh has been named as Sardar's deputy in place of dragflicker V R Raghunath.
Hockey India selectors B P Govinda, R P Singh and Arjun Halappa, High Performance Director and interim chief coach Roelant Oltmans, coach M K Kaushik and scientific advisor Jason Konrath alongwith the government observer Harbinder Singh selected the team during the three-day selection trials held at the SAI Centre in Bangalore from July 25 to 27. According to HI statement, the team will leave for Ipoh August 16.
India is placed in Pool B along side Korea, Bangladesh and Oman while Pakistan, Malaysia, Japan and Chinese-Taipei complete the Pool A line-up.
India will open its campaign against Oman on August 24 followed by matches against Korea (August 26) and Bangladesh (August 28). Squad: Goalkeepers: P R Sreejesh (vice-captain), P T Rao Defenders: V R Raghunath, Rupinder Pal Singh, Amit Rohidas, Kothajit Singh, Birendra Lakra, Gurmail Singh. Midfielders: Sardar Singh (captain), Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Dharamvir Singh, S K Uthappa. Forwards: Ramandeep Singh, Nithin Thimmaiah, Mandeep Singh, Malak Singh, Nikin Thimmaiah.