Sardar omitted for World League Final

Defenders Rupinderpal, Birendra return following injuries

Sardar omitted for World League Final

Veteran midfielder Sardar Singh was omitted from the 18-member squad for the season-ending Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar while Rupinderpal Singh and Birendra Lakra were recalled after successfully recovering from their injuries.

Although coach Sjoerd Marijne and High Performance Director David John said they are just trying out various combinations before the Asian Games and World Cup next year, Sardar's omission could well mean the end of the road for one of India's finest players.

In the Asia Cup at Dhaka where India emerged champions, the 31-year-old Sardar played as a defender while current skipper Manpreet Singh is being groomed to take up the all-important playmaker role. With the current coaching set-up looking to blood youngsters and some of them showing good promise, it could just get very difficult for the former captain to stay in the scheme of things.

"He's (Sardar) not selected for this tournament because we are trying another combination. As simple as that," said John at the SAI Centre here on Friday. "He's like Surender (Kumar), Ramandeep (Singh) and Satbir (Singh), they've missed out on this tournament. It's just not Sardar who's missing. Four new players have come in. We are looking forward to playing our best combination next year."

"Sjoerd is new to the group and it's important he sees all combinations. So we are trying a new combination. We saw Sardar, Harmanpreet (Singh) and Dipsan (Tirkey) play in Asia Cup. Now we are looking at Birendra and Rupinderpal and how their combination works because this is all towards Asian Games and World Cup next year. Everything we are doing now is for those tournaments next year. Our philosophy is to keep giving younger players a chance and exposure. We've got good depth within the group with lots of playing experience. If the (young) players gain experience, we can pick a good team."

While Sardar's omission was going to happen sooner rather than later, the return of Rupinderpal and Birendra is indeed a welcome boost. The duo form the heart of the Indian defence and they would relish the chance of making a return to the national team. Rupinderpal, India's premier drag-flicker, has been out for the last six months following a groin/abductor injury while the composed Lakra last played a year ago after rupturing his ACL.

Junior World Cup stars Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar and Dipsan Tirkey, who had promising outings during the European tour and Asia Cup, have been presented another chance to showcase their skills.

The forwardline will see the experienced SV Sunil along with the talented Akashdeep Singh, Gurjant Singh -- who had a good Asia Cup -- Lalit Upadhyay and the 22-year-old Mandeep Singh.

The HWL Finals kick off on December 1 with India pitted along with powerhouses Australia and Germany and the dangerous England in Group B. Pool A consists of Rio Olympic champions Argentina, silver medallists Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. 

Squad: Goalkeepers: Akash Anil Chikte, Suraj Karkera.

Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas, Dipsan Tirkey, Varun Kumar, Rupinderpal Singh, Birendra Lakra.

Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (capt), Chinglensana Singh (vice-captain), SK Uthappa, Sumit, Kothajit Singh.

Forwards: S V Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh.

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