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Sultan Azlan Shah Cup squad announced: Sjoerd Marijne votes for youth over experience

530   //    21 Feb 2018, 20:49 IST

Sardar Singh, back as captain

The final 18 for the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey tournament has been announced and the message is clear from India coach, Sjoerd Marijne.

Marijne is willing to take chances with an inexperienced squad, unlike Oltmans, who was reluctant to infuse new blood and persisted with a tried and tested set-up.

Creating a "strong core group" in the coach's words can be interpreted as building a team for the future. The impetus, therefore, is not on immediate results but is a sign of a coach who is willing to be bold and experiment with a new-look team in keeping with his vision for the future.

Focus on Tokyo 2020: Is Sjoerd Marijne taking a risk?

The coach seems focused on mission 2020 and the best possible combination that can be formulated from among the 33 or so probables currently available and a few more who will be added into the fold in the next couple of years.

This is a strong signal from a coach who has taken over just a few months back. Hockey India preferred to let Roelant Oltmans go in spite of his immense contribution to the side in catapulting India to the top six as they were in search of immediate results and were not satisfied with Oltmans' long-term objectives.

That being the case, Sjoerd Marijne is taking a calculated risk, it seems, by being unmindful of the prospect of a how a young team with several new faces will fare against the might of Australia, Argentina, and England among others.

Who is in and who is out

Notable inclusions are Sardar Singh who comes in as captain (in place of Manpreet Singh who is being rested), along with debutantes Mandeep Mor (defender), Sumit Kumar (forward), and Shilanand Lakra (forward).

India's new-look forward line will miss the services of SV Sunil and Akashdeep Singh.

Veteran goalkeeper, Sreejesh who played in the Four-Nations in New Zealand last month does not find a place. Suraj Karkera and Krishan Pathak will have a huge role to play as the ones chosen to guard India's goal.

Mandeep Mor and Nilam Sanjeep Xess will join Dipsan Tirkey, Amit Rohidas along with Varun Kumar and Surender Kumar in defence.

They will not be supported by Sardar Singh, however, as the veteran has been assigned a role in midfield.

Penalty-corner specialists Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh also do not find a place for the Ipoh tournament.

What is the verdict?

The coach has made his intentions clear by resting several seniors. It will, no doubt, be baptism by fire for the new entrants against world-class sides like Australia and whether or not the youngsters can take the pressure remains to be seen.

The overall intention is admirable and only a determined and fearless approach can produce the right results in future. One hopes Hockey India remains supportive of the coach who has so far made all the right moves.

If the ultimate aim is a podium finish in the Tokyo Olympics, patience and a long-term vision have to be the key.

The Team:

Goalkeepers: Suraj Karkera and Krishan B Pathak.

Defenders: Amit Rohidas, Dipsan Tirkey, Varun Kumar, Surender Kumar, Nilam Sanjeep Xess and Mandeep Mor.

Midfielders: S.K. Uthappa, Sardar Singh (captain), Sumit, Nilakanta Sharma and Simranjeet Singh.

Forwards: Gurjant Singh, Ramandeep Singh (vice-captain), Talwinder Singh, Sumit Kumar and Shilanand Lakra.

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