Performances rewarded with Commonwealth Games ticket as experiment phase ends in Indian men’s hockey

BENGALURU: For the last few months, coach Sjoerd Marijne kept a close eye on the performance of his players in different tournaments.
In the name of experimentation, the Dutchman gave the players chances to put forward their claim and earn their place for major events. Some failed while some impressed him to the hilt, and the 18-men squad chosen to represent India at the Commonwealth Games is a testimony to the fact.

The experimentation phase also seems to be over with Asian Games, Champions Trophy and World Cup among others coming up after the CWG. There is no room for hit and trial approach with India gunning for medals in big events.

India announced the team on Tuesday, and big names — Sardar Singh, Ramandeep Singh and SK Uthappa — have missed the flight to Gold Coast. However, India have all their bases covered. The likes of Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh (India’s two best bets at penalty corners) are at the heart of defence, skipper Manpreet Singh and his deputy Chinglensana Singh will marshal the midfield area. The likes of Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh and SV Sunil will lead India’s forward line.

With the return of PR Sreejesh, who did not feature in Sultan Azlan Shah, India have got much-needed experience under the bar. Suraj Karkera is the second goalkeeper. Dilpreet Singh, who impressed in New Zealand, has been picked with the 18-year-old possessing the ability to play as midfielder too.“I’ve been with the team for five months almost. We’ve played a few tournaments and every player has had a chance to show himself at two tournaments. We’ve picked this team because this is the best combination we saw,” said the Dutchman.

“Dilpreet scored a lot of goals in the New Zealand tour and he is quick on the uptake. He plays in the forward line, but he can operate in the midfield as well.”The core players will have to deliver in the competition and aim to bring their first CWG gold home. They faltered in the final twice (2010 and 2014). It is not going to be any easy for Marijne’s team with India in a tricky group, which includes England, Malaysia, Pakistan and Wales.

“We will focus on ourself. Whether we play Pakistan or Australia, it doesn’t matter. We have to do our key things well. Of course you’re going to watch clips of the other countries and you have to know what they’re doing,” said Marijne.

Though CWG is one of the big 2018 events, even bigger challenges (Asiad, CT and World Cup) lie ahead. Marijne seems to have a plan. After his boys are back from the CWG, the core squad will be trimmed to 24 players, from which the final squad for big tournaments will take shape.   “The announcement of the 24 will be after the CWG. We will finally have the 24 from which we will select the squads for the big tournaments.”

Squad:

Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh, Suraj Karkera

Defenders: Rupinder Pal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh, Gurinder Singh, Amit Rohidas;

Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (C), Chinglensana Singh Kangujam (VC), Sumit, Vivek Sagar Prasad;

Forwards: Akashdeep Singh, SV Sowmarpet, Gurjant Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Dilpreet Singh.

The New Indian Express
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