Indian hockey circles are abuzz with never-ending talk about who will comprise the 16-member men’s squad for the upcoming 2016 Rio Olympics. And for those who closely follow the sport, it may not be much of a challenge to know the players who are ‘certainties’ in the Rio-bound flight unless any unfortunate injury happens to any of them. Having said that, one cannot deny the fact that head coach Roelant Oltmans and the selectors may throw up some surprises.
One may not be utterly surprised if talented youngsters like Harmanpreet Singh and Surender Kumar make it to the 16-member squad, though it is difficult to see that happening considering that the likes of Kothajit Singh and Birendra Lakra are around, which could see Jasjit Singh Kullar miss the Olympic boat. It is a given that the 2 ‘R’ – Raghunath and Rupinder – are certainties.
That’s for our defence line. As far as the midfield is concerned, one would be convinced that guys like Devinder Walmiki, SK Uthappa and Manpreet Singh would make the cut, while the likes of Dharamvir Singh, Danish Mujtaba and Chinglensana Singh will have to fight off hot competition from their other team-mates.
One may ask why Sardar Singh is not being talked about in the midfield discussion, and that is because the coach is toying with the idea of playing him upfront considering that our forward line is our weakest area barring vastly experienced SV Sunil. Ideally, India will be looking to have six forwards – if you take Sunil out, then guys like Akashdeep Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Ramandeep Singh and Mandeep Singh may make it to the Rio-bound squad.
All these young strikers haven’t quite inspired confidence but the team’s think-tank may not tinker much them and persist with them for Rio. Talented Talwinder Singh may lose out his place to Mandeep Singh, who has shown better poaching skills than the other young strikers in the side.
July 12 will be the key day as the team will be announced on that day and one hopes that we have a team that can attain a podium finish.