India on Wednesday named a relatively young 18-member team to be led by midfielder Manpreet Singh for the 28th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup after several key players were ruled out of the prestigious hockey tournament due to injuries.
Manpreet will be assisted by a new deputy in defender Surender Kumar in this year’s Azlan Shah Cup to be held in Ipoh, Malaysia from March 23 to 30.
Apart from India and hosts Malaysia, the other participating nations are Canada, Korea, South Africa, Asian Games gold medallist Japan.
India, which starts its campaign against Japan on March 23, will miss the services of experienced forwards SV Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, besides defenders Rupinder Pal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh as well as midfielder Chinglensana Singh, who all were sidelined due to injuries.
Two junior players Vishal Antil and Pardeep Singh also missed the cut owing to injuries.
According to a statement from Hockey India, all the injured players will continue their rehabilitation at the Sports Authority of India South Centre in Bengaluru.
The 18-member team will have experienced PR Sreejesh under the goal post while Krishan B Pathak will be the second custodian.
The backline will be spearheaded by vice-captain Surender in the company of Gurinder Singh, Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh Khadangbam and dragflick duo of Varun Kumar and Amit Rohidas.
Skipper Manpreet will man the midfield alongside young guns Vivek Sagar Prasad, Hardik Singh, Sumit and Nilakanta Sharma.
India’s forwardline consists of Mandeep Singh, Simranjeet Singh, Gurjant Singh, Shilanand Lakra and Sumit Kumar.
“It is unfortunate that we will be missing some key players for the 28th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2019 due to injury,” said HI’s High Performance Director David John.
“However, it is important for them to return to 100 per cent fitness ahead of the FIH Series Final, which is a crucial tournament in our quest for 2020 Olympic berth and so they will continue to remain in Bengaluru and work on their rehabilitation.
“It is a relatively young side but each of these players have tremendous potential and have a good amount of international exposure. It is important to see how they fair in Malaysia as it will show the depth we possess in the core group ahead of the Olympic Qualification events this year,” added John, who is currently in charge of the team in the absence of a full-time chief coach.
The position of men’s hockey team’s chief coach is lying vacant after the removal of Harendra Singh following a disappointing World Cup campaign last year, where India crashed out in the quarterfinals.
The Indian team will leave for Ipoh, Malaysia from Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru on March 18.
Indian men’s hockey team:
Goalkeepers: P R Sreejesh, Krishan B Pathak
Defenders: Gurinder Singh, Surender Kumar (vice-captain), Varun Kumar, Birendra Lakra, Amit Rohidas, Kothajit Singh Khadangbam
Midfielders: Hardik Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Manpreet Singh (captain)
Forwards: Mandeep Singh, Simranjeet Singh, Gurjant Singh, Shilanand Lakra, Sumit Kumar.