Sardar Singh-led Indian hockey team leaves for Ipoh to take in 9th Asia Cup
The Sardar Singh-led 18-member Indian men’s hockey team left last evening for Ipoh to take part in the 9th Asia Cup hockey tournament, which gets underway from August 24.
As many as eight teams are participating in the nine-day event. India are placed in Pool B alongside defending champions Korea and two lesser teams – Bangladesh and Oman.
Pakistan are clubbed with hosts Malaysia, rapidly-improving Japan and Chinese Taipei in Pool A.
The national hockey selectors named a new vice-captain in goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who replaces Vokkaliga Raghunath, who has been Sardar’s deputy in all tournaments post the 2012 London Olympics, save for the 2013 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, where he was rested along with four other seasoned players.
The team’s forwardline wears an inexperience look given the fact that four of its key players are giving the Ipoh event a miss on account of injuries – SV Sunil, Gurwinder Singh Chandi, Danish Mujtaba and Akashdeep Singh.
The likes of Dharamvir Singh, Chinglensana Singh and precociously talented Mandeep Singh will have to shoulder most of the goal-scoring responsibilities in their absence and help India seal a World Cup berth.
Orissa lad Amit Rohidas has been included in the side in place of Harbir Singh Sandhu. SK Uthappa marks a comeback to the national side after last featuring in the 34th Champions Tropy in Melbourne last December.
The coach and selectors are likely to field him in a midfield position and have picked him with that intent.
Manpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh and Gurmail Singh will man the midfield along with captain Sardar Singh.
The forwardline has two new faces – Amritstar lad Ramandeep Singh and Karnataka lad Nikin Thimmaiah.
Malak Singh is another player to stage a national comeback after playing in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
India launch their campaign against Oman on August 24th – the opening day of the tournament.
Goalkeepers: P R Sreejesh (vice-captain), P T Rao;
Defenders: V R Raghunath, Rupinder Pal Singh, Amit Rohidas, Kothajit Singh, Birendra Lakra, Gurmail Singh;
Midfielders: Sardar Singh (captain), Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Dharamvir Singh, S K Uthappa;
Forwards: Ramandeep Singh, Nithin Thimmaiah, Mandeep Singh, Malak Singh, Nikin Thimmaiah.