HI continues with rotational policy

HI continues with rotational policy

Three players to make debut at Azlan Shah tournament

HI continues with rotational policy

Hockey India chose to stick with it's rotational policy as it named another experimental side, bringing back former skipper Sardar Singh from the freezer and packing the side with fresh faces for the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament.

Three players -- Mandeep Mor, Sumit Kumar and Shilanand Lakra -- have been handed debuts for the event at Ipoh, Malaysia from March 3-10 where world champions Australia, Olympic champions Argentina, England, Ireland and hosts Malaysia will be in participation.

Mandeep and Shilanand, who were part of the India Colts team that won bronze at the Sultan of Johor Cup last year, have been  called up from the junior men's core group. Another junior player Sumit has been given another chance to showcase his talent at the highest level.

"The Azlan Shah is perfect for (trying new players), like we did for  the New Zealand tour," reasoned coach Sjoerd Marjine after announcing the squad at the SAI Centre here on Tuesday. "It's good that three young players can make their international debut and experience the game at the highest level. Australia and Argentina are top-class teams and so is England. It will be a good tournament for them to play."

A major inclusion in the 18-member side is Sardar. The talismanic player, who was ignored for the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar last December, has not only been recalled but handed the captain's arm-band. Speculations are rife that this could be swansong event for Sardar but both player and coach chose to play it safe.  

"Sardar has always been a member of the 33-player probables list. We pick teams from that list. It's now Sardar's turn to play," said Marjine with a dead-pan expression.

The squad, loaded with inexperience especially in the goalkeeping and attacking departments, doesn't feature regular skipper Manpreet Singh, his predecessor P R Sreejesh, main defender Rupinder Pal Singh and many first-choice strikers. Marjine said there are no injury concerns for any and all of them have been rested considering the hectic schedule ahead. "All the guys who have been rested will continue to train here. We will announce the squad for CWG on March 16," the Dutchman said.

Marjine, meanwhile, stressed defence still remains the weak link. "I'm always a positive thinker. There are areas to improve but what I saw there (at the New Zealand tour) was we were more consistent. It was one of the important things we improved on the tour. We conceded some easy PCs so we have to improve our defending. We have to improve our performance in our own 25 (yards).

"We are working hard on that. I'm happy with the chances we created and the conversion rate. At Hockey World League Finals we were the team with most circle penetrations but not with most goals. It's a process and it will not change in one or two weeks. We need to play a lot of matches and try getting better."

Defenders: Amit Rohidas, Dipsan Tirkey, Varun Kumar, Surender Kumar, Nilam Sanjeep Xess, Mandeep Mor.

Midfielders: S K Uthappa, Sardar Singh (captain), Sumit, Nilakanta Sharma, Simranjeet Singh.

Forwards: Gurjant Singh, Ramandeep Singh (vice-captain), Talwinder Singh, Sumit Kumar (Junior), Shilanand Lakra.

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