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Sardar Singh axed, goalkeeper PR Sreejesh makes comeback to Indian hockey team

Hockey India selectors dropped former Indian hockey team captain Sardar Singh for next month’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

other sports Updated: Mar 13, 2018 20:22 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Sardar Singh,PR Sreejesh,Indian hockey team
Indian hockey team’s Sardar Singh (C) was dropped for the 2018 Commonwealth Games to be held in Gold Coast.(AFP)

After less than satisfactory results in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia where India finished fifth among six teams, Hockey India selectors have dropped former India captain and seasoned midfielder Sardar Singh for next month’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. Selectors have shown faith in the Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Sumit and rookie Vivek Sagar Prasad instead to form the midfield for the 10-team competition that includes Australia, England, Pakistan and New Zealand.

Manpreet Singh will lead the 18-member Indian squad with experienced goalkeeper PR Sreejesh back in the reckoning.

READ | After axe, Sardar Singh says his fitness, anticipation level as good as anyone in Indian hockey team

Sardar had done reasonably well as the leader of an inexperienced and experimental team at the Azlan Shah Cup but it seems the selectors thought it was not enough. Coach Sjoerd Marijne said from Bangalore that they considered a number of players for midfield but found that the four players picked are the best bet. Sardar still has many chances as India have a number of important tournaments lined up later in the year, the 43-year-old Dutch coach said.

India are grouped in Pool B along with Pakistan, Malaysia, Wales, England and will begin their campaign on April 7 against Pakistan. India won silver behind Australia in the last two editions and will be hoping to clinch their first gold in Gold Coast.

The selectors’ decision puts the onus on Manpreet Singh as he will be the fulcrum of attack. The defence which will have the experienced Rupinder Pal Singh as freeman ahead of fellow drag flicker Harmanpreet Singh, Kothajit Singh, Gurinder Singh and Varun Kumar with Amit Rohidas, the bright spot for India in Azlan Shah Cup, coming is a defender and third drag flicker.

Ramandeep Singh, who was part of the Azlan Shah squad, has been dropped.

READ | PR Sreejesh returns, Sardar Singh dropped from Commonwealth Games hockey squad

Vivek Sagar Prasad and Dilpreet Singh were part of the New Zealand tour and have been rewarded with this opportunity for a good show where the duo scored in important games, Hockey India said in a release.

“This team has been picked keeping in mind the team’s performance in the previous tournaments since the Asia Cup 2017. We have tried out different combinations in the past events and we believe this will be the most effective combination for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games,” chief coach Marijne said.

“This team has been improving with every match and while we could not produce a podium finish at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2018, it will have no influence on how we are going to play in Australia and we will be going there with a mindset to win,” said the Dutch coach.

Coach Marijne however said it should not be taken as an indicator of things to come. “It will be an indicator no doubt but it is no guarantee that we do as well or as bad in the other tournaments. Commonwealth Games is important but our main focus will remain the Asian Games in Indonesia and the World Cup after that,” he added.

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He said India will also play some higher ranked teams in the Champions Trophy and the team will take the field with different set of objectives.

Though India has never won a gold in men’s hockey at Commonwealth Games, skipper Manpreet Singh is confident.

“Our first aim is to do well in the group stage because we have some strong teams in our Pool. It’s extremely crucial to top our table and make the semis but if we do meet Australia in the knockouts, I believe we will be up for a strong challenge.” said the 25-year-old.

First Published: Mar 13, 2018 20:22 IST