Bengaluru (Karnataka) [India], Apr. 11 (ANI): Roelant Oltmans, chief coach of the Indian men's hockey team, has asserted that the upcoming 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, will provide youngsters an opportunity to showcase their talent at the world stage.
The Hockey India on Tuesday announced that veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh will lead the 18-member squad at the Azlan Shah Cup, beginning April 29 in Ipoh, Malaysia.
Ahead of the national camp for the senior men's core probable group, Oltmans had emphasized on giving juniors the right exposure with a vision of building a team that would bring laurels in the 2018 World Cup and 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
As a first step towards that goal, the chief coach has inducted four young players from the Indian Junior men's team.
While defender Gurinder Singh, midfielders Sumit and Manpreet, who were part of the Junior World Cup winning squad, are slated to make their debut at the tournament, 21-year-old goalkeeper from Mumbai, Suraj Karkera, who was part of the junior squad that toured England in 2016 and participated in the EurAsia Cup in Russia and the Four-Nations Tournament last year, too finds his name in the team.
The team also features drag flicker Harmanpreet Singh, Junior World Cup winning skipper Harjeet Singh and forward Mandeep Singh. The trio, who were instrumental in the Indian team's success at the Junior World Cup, have played at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in the previous edition where India won a silver after losing to Australia in the final.
"2017 is an important year for us. It's more about investing in young players. It's a transition phase as well from the former group who played until last November and this new group of player," Oltmans told ANI in an exclusive conversation.
"So, we have to make sure that this new group, the players get the exposure and the opportunity to showcase themselves in tournaments like Azlan Shah, which is still a good tournament with teams like England, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia."
"It's a good opportunity for us to test ourselves but also a good moment to bring youngsters and give them the opportunity to play for the national team," he added.
The team will be led by Sreejesh, who was recently conferred with the Padma Shri Award. Midfielder Manpreet Singh will be his deputy and he will be joined by the experienced Sardar Singh, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Harjeet Singh, Sumit and Manpreet in the midfield.
The defence includes Rupinder Pal Singh, Pardeep Mor, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh and Gurinder Singh while the forwardline is formidable with S.V Sunil, Talwinder Singh, Affan Yousuf, Akashdeep Singh and Mandeep Singh.
Speaking about the confidence level of the team, the chief coach said, "The confidence is high because after the Olympics, we played two tournaments and won them both. So, that's good for the confidence of the team."
"But at the same time, it's already history and we have to look forward to the future and make sure that these young guys will perform in such a tournament as well," he added.
The Indian squad is as follows: P.R. Sreejesh (captain), Suraj Karkera, Pardeep Mor, Surender Kumar, Rupinderpal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Gurinder Singh, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Sumit, Sardar Singh, Manpreet Singh (vice-captain), Harjeet Singh, Manpreet, SV Sunil, Talwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, Affan Yousuf, Akashdeep Singh. (ANI)