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Sardar Singh-led Indian Hockey squad leaves for Australia

Sardar Singh has been appointed the captain after the London Olympics debacle

Sardar Singh-led 18-member Indian Hockey squad left for Australia last night to take part in the second Lanco International Super Series Hockey 9s Tournament and FIH Champions Trophy.

The tournament assumes huge importance for the national hockey team as this is their first tournament in three months following their forgettable London Olympics campaign.

India under a new captain has many new faces, with the selectors wielding the axe on many seasoned campaigners like London Olympics captain and goalkeeper Bharat Chetri, drag-flicker Sandeep Singh, fullback Ignace Tirkey and forwards Shivendra Singh and Tushar Khandker.

The tournament will be a litmus test for chief coach Michael Nobbs, who would have to vindicate the faith reposed in him by Hockey India.

A new trainer, Jason Konrath, also from Australia like his predecessor David John, is expected to link up with the team in Perth. Earlier, Konrath was tipped to take charge by mid-November but visa issues delayed his arrival in India.

The second Lanco International Super Series Hockey 9s commences at the Perth Hockey Stadium, in Perth from Wednesday. The four-day invitational tournament will witness each team feature nine players as opposed to the usual 11 with a modified version of two 20-minute halves and one forward lodged in the attacking half at all times.

India would have their task cut out as they would have to rub shoulders with defending champions Australia, Olympic semifinalists England and Pakistan.

India take on England in their opener on November 22nd and play hosts Australia the next day. India would wrap up their league engagements on November 24th with a match against arch-rivals Pakistan.

The final is slated for November 25.

The blue shirts would subsequently participate in the prestigious 34th FIH Champions Trophy to be played at the State Netball Hockey Centre in Melbourne from December 1st to 9th. India are clubbed in Pool A alongside Olympic champions Germany, England and New Zealand, while hosts Australia, Netherlands, Pakistan and Belgium are grouped in Pool B.

Like the Lanco Super Series, India again kickstart their Champions Trophy campaign against England on December 1st. The Olympic wooden spoon holders next lock horns with New Zealand on December 2nd and wrap up their league assignments against Germany on December 4th.

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