Injured Akashdeep to miss Asia Cup

One of India’s most promising strikers, the young Akashdeep Singh, has been ruled out of the Asia Cup after a career-threatening shin-splints injury resurfaced during the probables camp here.

The 18-year-old Akashdeep, a striker blessed with good natural talent, has impressed many with his stick-work and fine runs since his junior days. The Punjabi has been slowly working his way up the senior ranks since last December, catching the eye of former coach Michael Nobbs during the Asian Champions Trophy and even earning praise from High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans.

However, the recurrence of the injury has thwarted his progress.

 “Akashdeep has been suffering from shin splints for a very long time,” Oltmans, who is in charge of the camp at the SAI campus here, told reporters.

“He’s only 18 and has a really big career ahead of him. That’s why we don’t want him to play the Asia Cup. We really rate him as a top striker; he has high potential. But if he continues playing with the injury, it can become chronic and in six months’ time he won’t be able to play anymore.

“The most important thing is he recovers 100 per cent before he plays hockey again.
Otherwise his future is in trouble. He will be out for a couple of weeks at least and then begin the rehabilitation process,” added Oltmans.

Apart from defence, another weak link in the Indian team is goalkeeping, prompting Hockey India to appoint Dave Staniforth to address the issue. While agreeing that Staniforth has limited time ahead of the Asia Cup, Oltmans said the South African’s appointment will bode well for the next generation.

“Staniforth will arrive here on August 10 and for Asia Cup it’s all about fine-tuning. As I’ve said earlier, he just won’t be working with the seniors but the juniors as well. We will have special goalkeeping camps.

“The current set (of goalkeepers) has not trained with ball machines or rebound nets. These things are important as it will help improve certain areas of their game. The only problem I see in them is that they run out too quickly. The most important thing is to defend your goal but when you run out early, the goal is empty.”

When Nobbs took over the Indian team, one thing he stressed upon was that the squad will not have one captain but a group of leaders -- a strategy employed successfully by the great coach Ric Charlesworth. Although cut from a different cloth, Oltmans said he too follows same practice.

 “I have five leaders in the team. We discuss a number of things with the five players. I introduced that a long time ago. Most of the time, these players are those that play in the centre of the field. If you don’t play in the centre, you come into trouble. We will have at least always three on the field with one being the goalkeeper.”

The trials for the Asia Cup were conducted last Friday and Saturday and Oltmans said the probables will be pruned to around 25 by midweek with the squad expected to be announced by the end of the week.

SAI will be replacing the artificial pitch at its campus by the end of this year and Oltmans said he wouldn’t mind if it’s green or blue -- on which the 2016 Olympics will be played. “The World Cup will be played on a green turf. Blue or green, I assure you everybody will adapt to it in one or two weeks’ time. Maybe if we put down a blue and a green turf, we cover everything. It’s not my decision though.”

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