Rajpal back as captain; Sardar, Sandeep get nod

Team picked purely on form: Nobbs

The Hockey India selectors, after conducting a two-day selection trial this weekend at the Sports Authority of India campus here, announced an 18-member squad for the inaugural edition of the continental tournament at Ordos, China from September 3-11.

Senior striker Rajpal Singh was named the captain after his predecessor Arjun Halappa missed the trials due to a groin injury, the selectors continued to keep their faith on youngsters, opening the door for young Mumbai striker Yuvraj Walmiki and retaining Azlan Shah star performer Rupinder Pal Singh. Prabhjot Singh missed out while the most notable exclusion was that of Air India goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza.

“We have given the opportunity to some exciting new young players, who, fortunately or unfortunately, have displaced a couple of senior players,” said Nobbs ahead of his first international assignment with the national team. “These youngsters deserve a chance as they outshone the seniors. The team was picked on form.

“However, they (ones who were not picked) will be given an opportunity to make a comeback. There are a few talented players who failed to make the grade due to injury.

It’s unfair to ignore them and all will be given a chance.” The Australian was also sharp in his assessment of Prabhjot and Adrian, stating that their performance in the trials didn’t merit them a place in the Asian Champions Trophy squad. “There was a lot of difference between the goalkeepers. Adrian is still young and has a chance to make a comeback.

“Prabhjot hasn’t played at the senior level for nearly 15 months now. The youngsters were easily better than him in all departments. I would pick Yuvraj who did everything I wanted him to do with a great deal of confidence. I am not ruling Prabhjot out, but if he performs well, he has a chance,” added the Australian.

The Indian team has a busy season over the next seven months and Nobbs hinted at roping in an European specialist on consultancy basis. “Keeping the Champions Trophy in mind, I would like to get someone to advice us on the European teams, something like what Paul Lissek does for the Australian team. I do know a few European coaches and I would like to be in touch with them more about what these teams are doing, their pattern of play etc.”

The team will wind up their camp here on August 27 and will open their campaign in the six-nation tournament against hosts China on September 3.

The squad: Goalkeepers: Bharat Chetri, PR Sreejesh.
Defenders: Sandeep Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Harpreet Singh.
Midfielders: Sardar Singh, Gurbaj Singh, Ignace Tirkey, Manpreet Singh, Manjit Kullu.
Forwards: Rajpal Singh (captain), Danish Mujtaba, Sarvanjit Singh, SV Sunil, Ravi Pal, Gurvinder Singh Chandi, Roshan Minz, Yuvraj Walmiki.

Stand-byes: Kamaldeep Singh (goalkeeper), VR Raghunath (defender), Vikas Sharma and Birender Lakra (midfielders), Mandip Antil and Chinglensana Singh Kangujam (forwards).

Schedule (India only): Sept 3: vs China; Sept 4: vs Japan; Sept 6: vs Korea; Sept 7: vs Malaysia; Sept 9: vs Pakistan; Sept 11: Classification matches and final.

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