Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh will lead an 18-member Indian hockey team at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh in Malaysia, which begins on April 29. Junior World Cup winning defender Manpreet Singh will be Sreejesh’s deputy in the squad.
Defender Gurinder Singh, midfielders Sumit and Manpreet, who were part of the Junior World Cup-winning squad, will also be part of the senior squad. Twenty-one-year-old goalkeeper Suraj Karkera from Mumbai 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.
Coach Roelant Oltmans emphasised the importance of 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.
In the previous Sultan Azlan Shah Cup India won a 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,” said Oltmans to PTI. “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 said.
“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, Great Britain and New Zealand,” added Oltmans.
The coach felt that the opposition teams will not ring in too many changes. “They also will bring new players. 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,” said Oltmans.
The tournament will give an idea of how things are progressing.
“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. 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,” Oltmans said.
Squad: Goalkeepers PR Sreejesh (captain), Suraj Karkera; Defenders: Pardeep Mor, Surender Kumar, Rupinderpal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Gurinder Singh; Midfielders: Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Sumit, Sardar Singh, Manpreet Singh (VC), Harjeet Singh, Manpreet; Forwards: SV Sunil, Talwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, Affan Yousuf, Akashdeep Singh.