Sardar Singh back as Indian hockey team captain for Sultan Azlan Shah Cup | other sports | Hindustan Times
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Sardar Singh back as Indian hockey team captain for Sultan Azlan Shah Cup

With a busy schedule ahead, Hockey India selectors decide to blood-in three youngsters for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, with Sardar Singh set to captain India at the tournament

other sports Updated: Feb 20, 2018 12:58 IST
B Shrikant
B Shrikant
Mumbai
Sardar Singh will captain the Indian men’s national hockey team at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
Sardar Singh will captain the Indian men’s national hockey team at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.(FIH/Frank Uijlenbroek)

The Hockey India selectors on Tuesday brought back Sardar Singh as captain of an 28-member Indian squad for the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup to be held in Ipoh, Malaysia from March 3-10.

Sardar, who was dropped for the last couple of events including the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar at the year-end, has not only been picked in the squad but also given the captain’s armband for the tournament in which India will take on World No 1 Australia, Olympic champions Argentina, England, Ireland and hosts Malaysia.

Apart from Argentina, the other five participants in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup will also line up at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia in April and this will be a chance to blood in youngsters for tougher tournaments later in the year like the Champions Trophy, Asian Games and the World Cup in Bhubaneswar in December.

So apart from rehabilitating Sardar, the selectors also picked three debutants for the event in Mandeep Mor, Sumit Kumar and Shilanand Lakra.

“Just like the New Zealand Tour where four players made their International debut, the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is a great opportunity for these new players to get international exposure against top teams,” a Hockey India release quoted chief coach Sjoerd Marijne as saying.

Marijne, who was behind India’s success at the men’s Asia Cup in 2017 and the bronze medal at the Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017, has also put faith in forward Ramandeep Singh, who has been named as vice-captain of the squad.

Coach Marijne and the selectors have decided to rest regular skipper Manpreet Singh as they plan for a full calendar. Seasoned goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who has returned from imjury recently, has not been included either.

While Sumit Kumar (Junior) is part of the ongoing senior men’s national camp, Mandeep Mor and Shilanand Lakra have been called up from the junior men’s core group. They were also part of the Indian team that won bronze medal at the Sultan of Johor Cup last year.

By introducing new players to the senior fold, Marijne is looking at long-term gains for the team that has set its eyes firmly on the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, the release said. “With youngsters who have done well in New Zealand as well as few more getting the right international exposure, it will only help us create a bigger group. Playing top teams in their first tournament will be challenging but this is also an opportunity for the seniors to help the youngsters adjust to this level,” added the 43-year-old Dutch coach.

On Sardar Singh’s role as the captain, Marijne said, “Sardar is one of the leaders in the core group and in Manpreet Singh’s absence, he has been chosen for the job. He is an experienced player and having missed two tournaments previously, this is an opportunity for him to show his skills.”

Sardar Singh will play in the midfield along with SK Uthappa, Sumit, Nilakanta Sharma and Simranjeet Singh.

“This tournament is extremely important for the players who are going because it is another opportunity for them to experience high level competition especially from teams like Australia and Argentina. This is a chance for them to show their capability in the international level and ensure their place in the squad for future tournaments,” said Marijne.

Squad:

Goalkeepers - Suraj Karkera, Krishan B Pathak

Defenders - Amit Rohidas, Dipsan Tirkey, Varun Kumar, Surender Kumar, Nilam Sanjeep Xess, Mandeep Mor

Midfielders - S.K. Uthappa, Sardar Singh (Captain), Sumit, Nilakanta Sharma, Simranjeet Singh

Forwards - Gurjant Singh, Ramandeep Singh (Vice-captain), Talwinder Singh, Sumit Kumar (Junior), Shilanand Lakra