Sardar, Ritu to lead India in HWL

Sardar Singh and Ritu Rani will lead the Indian men’s and women’s squads in the Hero Hockey World League Round 2 to be held from February 18 to 24 at the Major Dhyanchand National stadium here.

 Hockey India selector Syed Ali, chief coach Michael Nobbs, exercise physiologist Jason Konrath and government observer Harbinder Singh selected the men's team, after assessing the players’ performances in the Hockey India League as well.

Drag flicker Gurjinder Singh,  forwards Mandeep Singh and Malak Singh are the three new faces in the squad. While Gurjinder, who rose to limelight in World Series Hockey, has made waves in the domestic circuit this year, the other two have been impressive in the HIL. Mandeep is the top-scorer for Ranchi Rhinos with seven goals while Malak has slammed in five for Punjab Warriors.

Those who were left out were Gurmail Singh, forwards S K Uthappa, Akashdeep Singh and Yuvraj  Walmiki.

Harbinder stressed they had picked the team keeping in mind the Junior World Cup here in December. “We have selected junior players like Gurjinder,  Malak and Mandeep because they are also eligible to play in the Junior World Cup and we need to assess their performance. We are adopting a rotation policy to build a team for the forthcoming tournaments like Junior World Cup, the Senior World Cup and the Asian Games,” Harbinder said.

Sandeep Singh, the top goal-scorer in the Hockey India League (HIL) so far, did not make the cut. He has been named among the six reserves.

"It is not that we have ignored Sandeep. But competition has increased with VR Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh doing good. And now we also have Gurjinder,” Harbinder said.

Apart from hosts India (FIH World Ranking 11), the other teams participating in the men's competition are Ireland (15), China (18), Oman (36), Bangladesh (40) and Fiji (71).

In the women's competition, besides India (ranked 12), the other participating teams are Japan (9), Russia (20), Malaysia (22), Kazakhstan (33) and Fiji (59).
The tournament is a part of the qualification process for the FIH Men's Hockey World Cup 2014 at The Hague, Netherlands.

India's preparatory camp for the event will start at the Major Dhyanchand National Stadium from February 11, a day after the conclusion of HIL.

The squad (Men): Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh, PT Rao. Full-backs: V R Raghunath (vice-captain), Rupinderpal Singh, Harbir Singh. Half-backs: Birendra Lakra, Manpreet Singh, Kothajit Singh Khadangbam, Sardar Singh (captain), Gurjinder Singh.

Forwards: Danish Mujtaba, Nithin Thimmaiah, Mandeep Singh, Malak Singh, S V Sunil, Chinglensana Singh, Dharamvir Singh, Gurvinder Singh Chandi. Standbyes: Sushant Tirkey (goalkeeper), Sandeep Singh (fullback), MB Aiyappa, Gurmail Singh (half-backs), Akashdeep Singh, Imran Khan (forwards).

Women: Goalkeepers: Yogita Bali, Savita. Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka, Jaspreet Kaur, Joydeep Kaur, Kirandeep Kaur. Midfielders: Ritu Rani (captain), Chanchan Devi (vice-captain), Namita Toppo, Vandana Katariya, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Lily Chanu Mayengbam. Forwards: Poonam Rani, Soundarya Yendala, Anupa Barla, Rani, Navjot Kaur, Lilima Minz.

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