India retain core group for Games

Uthappa included; Walmiki out

Bangalore: Hockey India on Monday named a 16-member squad for the London Olympics, choosing to go with a blend of experience and youth for the quadrennial bash.

The selectors -- BP Govinda and Col Balbir Singh -- along with chief coach Michael Nobbs, coach Mohd Riaz, exercise physiologist David John and government observer Harbinder Singh conducted a two-day trials at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune on June 7 and 8.

Not willing to risk anything for the July 27-August 12 Games, the selectors decided to retain the core of the squad, especially since Nobbs took charge last August.

Seasoned custodian Bharat Chetri, who has been leading the side since India’s tour of Australia last October, has been retained the skipper while star midfielder Sardar Singh will continue to serve as his deputy.

2004 Athens Games participants Sandeep Singh and Igance Tirkey -- the only two Olympians in the team -- will man the defence along with second drag-flick specialist VR Raghunath.

Experienced winger Gurbaj Singh, who missed out of the February Olympic Qualifiers due to injury but has since made a fine return, has been included in the team that also features the experienced strike duo of Shivendra Singh and Tushar Khandker.

The only major surprise is the inclusion of young strikers SK Uthappa and Dharamvir Singh, who made the cut ahead of the talented Yuvraj Walmiki whose form has taken a dip since the injury he sustained during the Olympic Qualifiers in February.

India have been pitted in Group B with current champions Germany, Korea, New Zealand, Belgium and the Netherlands.

India, expected to reach London on July 19, will leave home towards the end of the month along with six other players for a three-week tour of France and Spain. 

The will play two ‘Test’ matches against France in Lille and participate in two events involving hosts Spain, South Africa and Great Britain at Santander.

The squad: Goalkeepers: Bharat Chetri (capt), PR Sreejesh. Defenders: VR Raghunath, Igance Tirkey, Sandeep Singh. Midfielders: Sardar Singh, Gurbaj Singh, Birendra Lakra, Manpreet Singh. Forwards: SV Sunil, Gurwindwer Singh Chandi, Shivendra Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Tushar Khandker, Dharamvir Singh, SK Uthappa. Stand-bys: Sarvanjit Singh, Kothajit Singh. Chief coach: Michael Nobbs. Coach: Mohd Riaz and Dayal Clarence Lobo. Manager: David John. Physiotherapist: Shrikant Iyengar. Video analyst: Hari Shankar Narayan.

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