Four debutants in national hockey squad

Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, April 11 (IANS) Hockey India on Tuesday announced the senior national squad for the 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup scheduled to begin in Ipoh, Malaysia on April 29.

Ahead of the national camp for the senior men's core probable group, India coach Roelant Oltmans had emphasised on giving juniors the right exposure with a vision of building a team for the 2018 World Cup and 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

As a first step towards that goal, the experienced Dutch coach has inducted four young players from the Indian junior men's team.

Defender Gurinder Singh, midfielders Sumit and Manpreet and goalkeeper Suraj Karkera will have a chance to make their debut for the senior India team at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

While Gurinder, Sumit and Manpreet were part of the Junior World Cup winning squad, the 21-year-old Karkera was in the junior India squad that toured England in 2016 and participated in the EurAsia Cup in Russia and the Four-Nation Tournament last year.

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 took silver after losing to Australia in the Final.

"The idea was to try out new combinations ahead of the three important tournaments this year, which are the World League Semi Final, Asia Cup and the Odisha Men's Hockey League Final Bhubaneswar 2017,"Oltmans said.

"We have a few tournaments before these big events like we play Belgium and Germany before we play the World League Semi Final and we play Belgium and Holland in August. These are good opponents against whom we can test ourselves to access whether the players are achieving what we expect out of them," he added.

The India team will be led by experienced goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh who was recently conferred 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 will feature S.V Sunil, Talwinder Singh, Affan Yousuf, Akashdeep Singh and Mandeep Singh.

"We will bring a team to Malaysia which is a mixture of experienced and young players some of whom have played in the senior squad earlier. It is a challenge for us to see where we stand with the new team combination compared to other teams like Australia, Britain and New Zealand. They will also bring new players," Oltmans said.

"I don't expect Malaysia and Japan to have too many changes in their teams and I think they play the same players as they did at the Asian Champions Trophy last October," he added.

He further stated that a new team will face its own challenges during the course of the tournament but the ultimate goal is to get the best results for the country.

"It will be interesting to see how these teams are developing and also access our own progress. We need to pay attention to the structure we are looking for and it takes time to make everyone aware of what the demands of the structure are specially when new players are coming in," the veteran Dutch coach said.

"Though most of them are responding very well, I believe there will be some ups and downs in the tournament but the aim is to have the best possible result," he concluded.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: P.R. Sreejesh (captain), Suraj Karkera.

Defenders: Pardeep Mor, Surender Kumar, Rupinderpal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Gurinder Singh.

Midfielders: Kangujam Chinglensana Singh, Sumit, Sardar Singh, Manpreet Singh (vice-captain), Harjeet Singh, Manpreet.

Forwards: S.V. Sunil, Talwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, Affan Yousuf, Akashdeep Singh.

--IANS

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