Drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh omitted from Indian Hockey World League squad
Indian national men’s team coach Paul van Ass has announced the squad for the Hockey World League (HWL) semifinals. Notable absentees from the squad include 23-year-old midfielder SK Uthappa and 24-year-old defender Rupinder Pal Singh, who can also double up as a drag flicker.
Van Ass is a devout proponent of defensive discipline in the team and hence, Rupinder’s absence from the squad comes as a shock. The defender has been a regular in the national side for the last few years. He has played 113 matches for India, scoring 47 goals.
The Dutchman, when asked about Rupinder’s absence, explained that he made the decision with the Olympics in mind and wanted a more athletic defender.
He said, “He is not gone; he has done nothing wrong. But we also have to be prepared for such things. When the Olympics come and we have two drag-flickers injured, what do we do then? Also, we have young Jasjit Kular, who is good with variations.
“We have to cope with a drag-flicker less, but I also play differently. I require some more athleticism in that position. I think Jasjit is a good player, good on his feet, a good passer, quick and secure. He also brings in options from penalty corners, and I have liked him from the beginning,”
We can take some risks as we’ve already qualified for Rio: Raghunath
VR Raghunath is the lone drag-flicker in the side selected by the manager. The 26-year-old full-back said that he is relishing the opportunity to be the only penalty corner specialist in the side.
“I will be taking maximum shots when I am in. Else, we will try variations from indirect shots. It is a challenge for us as a team, but we are taking it in a positive way,” Raghunath admitted.
“We still have almost four weeks to go, so there is enough time for us to prepare. It is nice to experiment in these tournaments and take some risks because we have already qualified for Rio.”
The HWL is scheduled to be held from June 20 in Antwerp, Belgium. India is placed alongside France, Poland, Pakistan and Australia in Pool A. China, Ireland, Malaysia, Great Britain and Belgium have been placed in Pool B. The final of the tournament will be held in India and the top 3 teams will qualify for Rio.
Although the 10-team tournament is also a qualifying event for the 2016 Olympics, India, courtesy of winning the gold medal at the Incheon Asian Games, has already qualified for the Rio Olympics. Sardar Singh, as expected, will lead the Indians at the HWL.
Goalkeepers: P.R. Sreejesh, Harjot Singh
Defenders: Manpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, V.R. Raghunath, Jasjit Singh Kular, Gurmail Singh
Midfielders: Gurbaj Singh, Dharamvir Singh, Sardar Singh (C), Chinglensana Singh, Lalit Upadhyay
Forwards: S.V. Sunil, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Yuvraj Walmiki, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh