India named their 18-member squad for the upcoming Hockey World League Final to be played in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha from December 1 with former-skipper Sardar Singh unable to find a spot. Hockey India (HI), however, have recalled penalty corner specialist and defender Rupinder Pal Singh and midfielder Birendra Lakra for the tournament that will run till December 10.
Sardar, who was part of the team that won the Asia Cup last month in Dhaka, has for the past year been pushed to give up his customary playmaker’s role to Manpreet Singh. Manpreet will continue to lead the side with Chinglensana Singh donning the vice-captaincy duties.
Sardar, 31, was asked to play in the ‘free man’ role in defence and did decently well during the Asia Cup – which India won without losing a game. But with Rupinder and Lakra back in the fray, Sardar has been axed from the team with numerous calls for him to retire.
“It is good to have Rupinder, who brings great experience, as well as Birendra back in the team. Both are 100 per cent fit and eager to wear the India colours again,” stated the 43-year-old Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne.
In a great comeback story, Amit Rohidas has been rewarded for a spectacular showing in the Hockey India League and then a senior call, by getting a chance to wear the India colours in front of his home crowd. “Amit was called-in as a replacement for Kothajit who had a hamstring injury just before we left for the Asia Cup. He flew in directly from Australia where he had played the Australian Hockey League for India ‘A’ team and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands,” stated the Dutchman.
India have long suffered with poor conversion of penalty corners and that problem continued during the Asia Cup, in Dhaka, too. In that regard, the team will have more dragflick options in Rupinder, Harmanpreet, Varun, Amit and Dipsan. “We have five players in defence who can drag and have been putting in extra hours for PC training which is great for the team,” Sjoerd said.
He also emphasised on the fact that the team is made up of experienced players and youngsters alike. “I think this is a great mix and would especially like to see how the youngsters soak up the pressure of playing against higher ranked teams in the world. We will have to play every match like it is the Final and will have absolutely no room to make errors if we want to see ourselves on the podium,” concluded Chief Coach Marijne.
India are placed in Pool B alongside Australia, England and Germany. The hosts play their first game against Australia on December 1 at 7.30 PM IST.
Goalkeepers: Akash Anil Chikte, Suraj Karkera
Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas, Dipsan Tirkey, Varun Kumar, Rupinderpal Singh, Birendra Lakra
Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (C), Chinglensana Singh (VC), SK Uthappa, Sumit, Kothajit Singh
Forwards: SV Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh