Bengaluru: Among the notable exclusions from the Indian men’s hockey squad for the Commonwealth Games (CWG) announced on Tuesday were Sardar Singh and Ramandeep Singh.
Sardar, skippering India in their Sultan Azlan Shah Cup campaign, didn’t score in the tournament and despite flashes of brilliance, failed to inspire a young team that finished fifth among the six nations.
On the other hand Ramandeep, in the forward line, scored four goals – including two against champions Australia, assisted twice and injected the ball for his fellow young attackers.
So, it was his exclusion from the CWG squad, rather than the struggling Sardar’s, that came as a surprise.
Coach Sjoerd Marijne was present at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to shed some light on the topic. “Raman is a good player. He played well in New Zealand and Azlan Shah. But we still want him to improve,” he said.
“We picked other players who also did very well. Dilpreet (Singh) scored a lot of goals in the New Zealand tour, he learns quickly. In defense and attack, he’s spectacular. We have Akashdeep (Singh) also in that position. We compared with them. And at the moment we chose them because they have good speed.”
Sardar, the coach said, didn’t convince him enough. “It’s not only in Azlan Shah but also in Asia Cup. We also saw him in the training,” he said. “We pick midfielders who can also score. That’s what you saw in New Zealand. There’s diversity to the players we picked and that’s why we picked them for that position.”
Marijne also revealed that he’d stop tweaking the squad for the Asian Games in August and the Hockey World Cup in November. A 48-player group will split evenly into a main squad and a developmental squad. Another six players will be added to the 18-member squad that will travel to Australia to take part in the CWG in Gold Coast.
Here are excerpts from his interaction with the media:-
On India’s opponents in CWG
We’d want to focus on ourselves. Teams like Pakistan, England… it doesn’t matter. It’s about our own performance. Our key points, we have to do them good. The more we are busy with ourselves, the less pressure we feel. Of course, you have to show some clips from other countries, you have to know what they are doing.
On facing Pakistan
We train hard, we prepare well and be ready for the first match against Pakistan. I know (Roelant) Oltmans is there, he knows a few things about India but a few things changed in the last few months. It will be a really good challenge.
On India’s Azlan Shah performance
I think we did really well. Only the results were not always good. If you saw our matches against Argentina and Australia, you’d know how close we were. And, we drew against England, who played with their best side. The only match that was disappointing was the match against Ireland – and that happens with an inexperienced squad. They played a high-level game against Malaysia, who were also with the full squad. Of course, we wanted to end higher. But we did really well. And, a lot of players have some experience at the international level. They are the future for India – and that’s important. We need the depth.
On takeaways from experimenting with squad
That we have a lot of players who have played international hockey. That’s really good. The future for India is looking bright. With different teams every time there was good leadership. With different groups, they had to adjust, they didn’t know which position they were going to play in, if they were going to be in the next tournament. So, mentally it was tough for them. And, that’s what we also want to create because in big matches we need mental strength.
On Sreejesh’s comeback
Of course, it’s important that he’s back. He’s an experienced player. Also good is Suraj Karkera, who did an amazing job against Malaysia. We have two good goalkeepers.
On the constant change in Hockey World Cup format
I am not too bothered by that. If that’s the way they want it, we’ll do it like that. That’s fine with us. We will be busy with things we can control.