Oltmans picks four fresh faces

Uthappa, Nikkin and Lakra sidelined for Sultan Azlan Shah

Oltmans picks four fresh faces

Indian hockey team’s head coach Roelant Oltmans on Tuesday stated that the upcoming Sultan Azlan Shah Cup will be a platform for India to test themselves before heading into the big-ticket events later in the year.

“It’s a good tournament to test yourselves before you get into the more important ones later,” said Oltmans speaking after announcing his squad for the Azlan Shah Cup scheduled from April 29 to May 6 in Malaysia.

The Dutchman named an 18-man side with a good blend of youth and experience for the invitational tournament, with goalkeeper P R Sreejesh as the captain. While seven players from the junior side that won the Junior World Cup last year have been included in the squad, four players -- Sumit, Gurinder Singh, Manpreet Jr and Suraj Karkera -- have been called up to the senior team for the first time.

“We see this as a good international exposure for these guys,” Oltmans said justifying his selection. “For us, this is a platform to try out new things, new combinations and an opportunity for the guys who had a good 2016 to showcase themselves on the international level.”

Though players like Ramandeep Singh, SK Uthappa, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Birendra Lakra and Kothajit Singh have been kept out, the head coach stated it means nothing in the long run. “That doesn’t mean anything. This is just a one-off tournament where we will test a number of players and give them international exposure.”

While a handful of youngsters have been included in the side, Dipsan Tirkey is one of the key absentees. The Odisha lad was an important member in the Junior World Cup-winning side and also played a vital role in guiding Kalinga Lancers to the Hockey India League title early this year.

But Oltmans stated that Trikey is not yet ready for the big league. “For someone like Dipsan, I agree he has had a good Junior World Cup, but I think it’s a step bit too early at this level.

“He needs to get a little more experience in the training first to make that step. There’s no doubt that he’ll make that step, but when? That’s somewhere in the future,” he explained.

While the team is hopeful of a podium finish in Malaysia, Oltmans insisted that the target will be to assess the team capabilities before the big championships. “Every tournament we go, we have the same target — to win it. But that doesn’t mean we will win. Every team that comes in will want to win.

“It’s a new (Olympic) cycle, so every team will have a bunch of new guys and you never know what to expect from them. The important thing is to see what we are capable of. We are trying to introduce a few new things in our style of play, both offensively and defensively, and also in the mental aspect of the game. That’s what I am looking forward to, because that are the things we have to take forward into the other tournaments too.”

The team leaves for Malaysia on April 24.

Chettri joins support staff
The Indian hockey team has roped in former skipper Bharat Chettri as a goalkeeping coach for the senior team.

Chettri joined the camp 10 days ago and is eager to use his playing experience to help develop the goalkeepers in the side.

DH News Service

Squad: Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh (captain), Suraj Karkera; Defenders: Pardeep Mor, Surender Kumar, Rupinderpal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Gurinder Singh; Midfielders: Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Sumit, Sardar Singh, Manpreet Singh (vice-captain), Harjeet Singh, Manpreet Jr; Forwards: SV Sunil, Talwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, Affan Yousuf, Akashdeep Singh.

Support staff: Roelant Oltmans (chief coach), Hans Streeder (analytical coach), Arjun Halappa (assistant coach), Jugraj Singh (assistant coach), Scott Conway (scientific advisor), Rajeev Kumar Singh (Physio), Aditya CS (video analyst), Aroop Naskar (masseur).

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