Raghunath to lead India in Four-Nations hockey tournament
Bengaluru, Nov 11 (IANS) Seasoned drag flicker V.R. Raghunath will lead the men's team in the Four-Nation tournament in Australia, starting November 23 as Hockey India (HI) on Friday left out injured seniors P.R. Sreejesh, S.V. Sunil and Ramandeep Singh from the squad.
Promising drag flicker Rupinder Pal Singh, who was adjudged top scorer at the recently-concluded Asian Champions Trophy, has been named Raghunath's deputy while veteran Sardar Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah have been named as replacements for Sunil and Ramandeep.
Akash Chikte and Abhinav Kumar Pandey will be India's custodians in Sreejesh's absence. Chitke came up with an outstanding performance in the final of Asian Champions Trophy after Sreejesh sustained an injury during the penalty shootout against South Korea in the semi-final of the tournament. The second goalkeeper will be Abhinav from Uttar Pradesh.
"Abhinav has been in and out of the camps. He has had a knee injury for a while but has made a strong comeback and we are pleased with his performance in this camp," chief coach Roelant Oltmans said in a statement.
Ace forward Sunil is yet to fully recover from the wrist injury he sustained at the Rio Olympics. Ramandeep, who replaced Sunil in the Asian Champions Trophy, will also miss out due to injury.
"Both Sreejesh and Sunil will remain in SAI for rehabilitation. Also Sreejesh has willingly stepped up to spend some time with the junior team goalkeepers. He has already starting working with them and will assist Dave Staniforth who is joining us next week" Oltmans said.
"This is great for the young boys and sharing his experience with them will be valuable ahead of the Junior World Cup," stated Oltmans, who will work with the junior team while strategic coach Roger Van Gent will accompany the senior team to Australia.
Stand-in skipper Raghunath said that the team is upbeat and eager to face the challenge Down Under.
"The Asian Champions Trophy win has boosted the morale of the players and the team's spirit is high. However, playing in Australia is a different challenge and we are up for it. We have beaten Australia in their home earlier in 2014 Test series and look to repeat the performance this time too," he said.
Besides hosts Australia, India will play against Malaysia and New Zealand in the series before playing Australia in a Test series.
Goalkeepers: Abhinav Kumar Pandey, Akash Chikte
Defenders: Rupinder Pal Singh (Vice Captain), Pardeep Mor, V.R. Raghunath (Captain), Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar
Midfielders: Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Manpreet Singh, Sardar Singh, S.K. Uthappa
Forwards: Talwinder Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Affan Yousuf, Mohammad Amir Khan, Satbir Singh, Akashdeep Singh