Selectors crack the whip on seniors

Hockey :Youngsters Akashdeep, Nithin drafted into the squad

Sending out a strong message to under-performing seniors following the London Olympics debacle, Hockey India selectors on Monday wielded the axe on the seasoned trio of Sandeep Singh, Shivendra Singh and Ignace Tirkey when they named the 18-member squad for the two upcoming tournaments.

Choosing to go with fresh blood with an eye on building a team for the future, the selectors made seven changes, picking a relatively fresh-looking squad for the Lanco International Super Series and 34th Champions Trophy. While the Lanco Series will be played in Perth from Nov 22-25, the Champions Trophy will be held in Melbourne from Dec 1-9.

Punjab’s promising striker Akashdeep Singh and Nthin Thimmaiah are the two new faces in the squad that will be led by star midfielder Sardar Singh with drag-flicker VR Raghunath serving as his deputy.

“We need to lift the standard of Indian hockey,” said Col Balbir Singh, who chose the squad along with fellow selectors BP Govinda, Thoiba Singh, government observer Harbinder Singh and coach Michael Nobbs during the Oct 25-27 trials in Patiala. “What happened during the London Olympics was a complete disaster.

“We need to build a team for the future. It is the right time to take a risk. Nothing worse than the Olympics can happen. The youngsters will have a great learning experience in Australia and playing against top teams should inspire them in the longer run. We are not worried about the results.

“Talented youngsters like Akashdeep Singh and Gurmeet Singh should be given plenty of opportunities. With the World Cup two years away, I think it is the right time to blood such youngsters.”

Although the move was on expected lines following the axing of London Olympics captain Bharat Chetri and Tushar Khandkar from the core probables list of 33, Balbir said the seniors can a make a comeback provided they perform.  

“They (seniors) are not dropped for good. If they perform, they can make a comeback. We want to increase the level of competition nationally,” Balbir said.

The squad: Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh, PT Rao.
Fullbacks: VR Raghunath (vice-capt), Rupinderpal Singh, Harbir Singh.
Half-backs: Sardar Singh (capt), Kothajit Singh, Birendra Lakra, Manpreet Singh, Gurmail Singh.

Forwards: SV Sunil, Gurvinder Singh Chandi, Danish Mujtaba, SK Uthappa, Nithin Thimmaiah, Yuvraj Walmiki, Dharamvir Singh, Akashdeep Singh.
Stand-byes: Srenivas Rao (Goalkeeper), Amit Rohidas (defender), MB Aiyappa (half-back), Chinglensana Singh (forward), Pradhanna Sommanna (forward), PL Thimmanna (forward).

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