Sardar, Rupinder return to India squad for Six Nations tourney
New Delhi, June 20 (IANS) India skipper Sardar Singh and the experienced duo of Rupinder Pal Singh and Birender Lakra were named in the 18-man squad for the Six Nations Invitational Hockey tournament to be held in Valencia, Spain, from June 27.
Sardar was rested in India's silver medal winning Champions Trophy campaign, where goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh led the India team in his absence.
The squad features a strong defencive line-up, with experienced campaigners V.R. Raghunath and Kothajit Singh expected to guide youngsters Harmanpreet Singh and Surender Kumar. Sreejesh and Vikas Dahiya are the goalkeepers included in the squad.
The other teams in the tournament are Argentina, Germany, New Zealand, Ireland and hosts Spain.
"After winning our first medal at the prestigious Champions Trophy tournament over the weekend, and the first medal since the bronze in 1982 as well as the best finish in any major Champions Trophy tournament so far, we are confident to deliver our best at the Six Nations Tournament as well," Sardar said.
"All these matches are stepping stones towards the ultimate goal -- Rio Olympics 2016. The brilliant display of tactical hockey during FIH Champions Trophy by the squad has positively elevated our Olympic medal-winning hopes. Three of the teams we face in Valencia are in our Pool at the Olympic Games, so that will help us access and analyse our tactics better too," he added.
India head coach Roelant Oltmans said the side is confident of continuing their good form ahead of the Rio Olympics.
"I am really impressed by the boys with their recent performances, especially at the Champions Trophy silver winning finale. They are implementing the learning of the training well into action at the tournaments. I hope we keep up the spirit and continue to deliver performances like this. The key to the tournament will be to use it almost as a host of friendlies, before the Games," Oltmans said.
"We will try to maximise on our squad rotations, tactical experiments and analyse our opponents there. Most teams will come with what resembles their full strength squad and so it will give us a good indication of our strengths and weaknesses, prior to Rio."
India will take on Germany in the opening match on June 27.
Goalkeepers: P.R. Sreejesh (vice-captain) Vikas Dahiya.
Defenders: Rupinderpal Singh, V.R. Raghunath, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra.
Midfielders: Danish Mujtaba, Chinglensana Singh Manpreet Singh, Sardar Singh (captain), S.K. Uthappa, Devindar, Sunil Walmiki, Harjeet Singh.
Forwards: Talwinder Singh S.V. Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah.