New Delhi: Ace midfielder Manpreet Singh is set to lead the Indian mens hockey team at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, starting April 4, while the experienced former captain Sardar Singh has been left out of the 18-member squad, announced by Hockey India on Tuesday.
The Indian team is grouped in Pool B along with Pakistan, Malaysia, Wales, England and will begin their campaign on April 7 against Pakistan. Midfielder Chinglensana Singh Kangujam will be the vice-captain of the team. It was under Manpreet's leadership that the Indian team lifted the Asia Cup in 2017 followed by a bronze medal at the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar last year. Freeman and drag-flick expert Rupinder Pal Singh will form India's wall of defence along with Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh, Gurinder Singh and Amit Rohidas, while the goalpost will be guarded by India's experienced goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh who made a strong comeback into the team during the New Zealand Tour where he displayed some exceptional goalkeeping abilities. He will be backed by the 22-year-old Suraj Karkera who played a crucial part in the team's good show in Bhubaneswar last year in his senior counterpart's absence.
India's midfield will see skipper Manpreet in the lead role, ably supported by the experience of Chinglensana along with young blood in Sumit and Vivek Sagar Prasad. The Indian attack will feature a combination between experience and youth as S.V. Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh and Dilpreet Singh are all in the team. Dilpreet Singh and Vivek Sagar Prasad who made their international debut during the New Zealand tour have been rewarded with this opportunity for a good show where the duo scored in important games.
Sardar's exclusion comes on the heels of India finishing fifth under his leadership at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament. However a few eyebrows have been raised with Ramandeep Singh being dropped despite his decent show in the same tournament. "This team has been picked keeping in mind the team's performance in the previous tournaments since the Asia Cup 2017. We have tried out different combinations in the past events and we believe this will be the most effective combination for the Gold Coast 2018 XXI Commonwealth Games," asserted Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne. He stated that the team has a winning mindset and will look to aim for the best in the quadrennial event. "This team has been improving with every match and while we could not produce a podium finish at the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2018, it will have no influence on how we are going to play in Australia and we will be going there with a mindset to win," said the 43-year-old Dutch coach. In the previous two outings at the Commonwealth Games, India has finished second behind Australia.
Skipper Manpreet Singh, however, is confident of turning the tables this time. "Our first aim is to do well in the group stage because we have some strong teams in our Pool. It's extremely crucial to top our table and make the Semis but if we do meet Australia in the knockouts, I believe we will be up for a strong challenge," the 25-year-old Manpreet said. Squad: Goalkeepers: Sreejesh Parattu Raveendran, Suraj Karkera. Defenders: Rupinder Pal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh Kadangbam, Gurinder Singh, Amit Rohidas. Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (Captain), Chinglensana Singh Kangujam (VC), Sumit, Vivek Sagar Prasad. Forwards: Akashdeep Singh, Sunil Sowmarpet Vitalacharya. IANS