HI announces 16-member Olympic hockey squad
India named a 16-member hockey squad Monday, to be led by goalkeeper Bharat Chetri, for next month's London Olympics, ending days of speculation but as expected without any major surprises. Only two changes were made from the squad that finished third in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament in Malaysia with striker Yuvraj Walmiki and Rupinderpal Singh being left out, preferring veteran Ignace Tirkey and Gurwinder Singh Chandi in their place.
Walmiki and Rupinderpal's axing was on expected lines as the duo had been struggling of late. Walmiki has also not fully recovered from the injury he sustained during the Olympic qualifying event in February though he played in Malaysia. The squad was picked after a two-day selection trials at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune on June 6 and 7. Star mid-fielder Sardar Singh will be the vice-captain of the team. The selectors decided to go in with two goalkeepers in captain Chetri and PR Sreejesh for the quadrennial sporting extravaganza to be held in London from July 27 to August 12.
According to the squad announced by Hockey India, Sarwanjeet Singh and Kothajit Singh would travel with the team to London as standbys. The duo can only be included in the main team in case of any serious injury to the first 16 players. Veteran Tirkey will marshall the three-man Indian defence along with drag-flick duo of Sandeep Singh and V R Raghunath.
Talismanic Sardar will lead the mid-field, India's strongest area, in company of Manpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra and Gurbaj Singh. Striker Gurwinder Singh Chandi made a return to the squad after recovering from his hamstring injury sustained during the Olympic test event in London last month. Shivendra Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Tushar Khandker, SV Sunil, Dharamvir Singh and S K Uthappa complete the forward line-up.