Indian men’s hockey team on Wednesday suffered a big jolt even before the start of their Sultan Azlan Shah Cup opener against Japan after centre-half Manpreet Singh was ruled out of the tournament following the sudden death of his father.
Manpreet returned home on hearing the death of his father just before India’s opening fixture against Japan, which the Sardar Singh-led side won 2-1 at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium.
India’s squad was reduced to 17 for the opening match against Japan and to make matters worse they will not be able
to get a replacement for Manpreet.
Manpreet got the news of his father’s demise hours before the match against Japan. He was immediately given permission to return to Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur and board the evening flight to India.
It takes three hours by road to reach Kuala Lumpur from Ipoh. A minute’s silence was observed before the start of the match between India and Japan. The Indian team also sported black arm-bands as a mark of respect to Manpreet’s father.
India chief coach Roelant Oltmans said the loss of the pivotal centre-half was a big blow for the team. “Losing Manpreet is a big blow to the team. He has to be with his family at this critical moment,” said Oltmans.
Oltmans said after checking with the tournament director and International Hockey Federation (FIH) staffs, he got to know that India were not allowed to bring in a replacement for Manpreet as per the tournament rules. “We cannot bring any replacement. The tournament rules are such that any replacement of players is permitted until the team managers’ meeting,” said Oltmans.
“The meeting of team managers was held on Tuesday. There’s not much that can be done,” the coach said, adding that the Indian squad would now be officially made 17.