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Sardar, Rupinder rested; Sreejesh to lead India in CT


New Delhi : Mercurial skipper Sardar Singh and ace dragflicker Rupinder Pal Singh were today rested from India’s 18-member squad to led by ace goalkeeper PR Sreejesh for the prestigious FIH Champions Trophy to be held in London from June 10 to 17.

Besides, the Hockey India selectors have also rested striker Ramandeep Singh and defender Jasjit Singh Kular.

It will India’s penultimate tournament before the Rio Olympics and the decision to rest some of the senior players, including Sardar, was taken in order to keep them fresh and fit for the quadrennial extravaganza.

After Champions Trophy, India will feature in a six-nation tournament in Valencia, their last preparatory event before the Olympics.

“It was pre-decided that Sardar and few other senior players will be rested for the Champions Trophy as they have been playing non-stop for quite some time. We implemented the same strategy in the Azlan Shah Cup where we gave rest to Sreejesh and VR Raghunath,” Hockey India president Narinder Batra told PTI.

“It also means that the chief coach (Roelant Oltmans) can check out a few youngsters and analyse what’s best possible combination before the Olympics. To add to it, in case of an injury to a senior player just before the Olympics, we should be ready to field another player in his position,” Batra added.

Striker SV Sunil will be Sreejesh’s deputy in the squad which also witnessed the return of seasoned first team players like VR Ragunath and striker Akashdeep Singh, who were not part of the Azlan Shah squad.

Sardar’s place in the team was taken by young Pradeep Mor, while midfielder Devinder Walmiki also gets a look in.

The only change in the forwardline is of Akashdeep coming in for Ramandeep Singh, who too has been given a break.

Defender Harmanpreet Singh, one of the outstanding performers from the team’s silver medal winning Azlan Shah Cup team, finds himself retained in the squad, and is joined by his junior colleagues, Harjeet Singh and goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya. Dahiya will be a back up to Sreejesh in the squad.

Speaking after the squad announcement, Sreejesh said, “At the Champions Trophy, our aim will be to put in a class performance and finish as high as we can. Finishing with a medal at the tournament, will give us a lot of confidence going into the Olympics.”

Chief coach Oltmans also echoed the same sentiments saying,”It is important that we approach the tournament, not just with a view to winning it, but also to execute our tactics well, and learn from past mistakes and keep evolving. This will ensure, that as a team we are prime placed when we reach Rio, physically, mentally and tactically.”

Squad: PR Sreekesh (Captain), Vikas Dahiya, Pradeep Mor, VR Raghunath, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Chinglensana Singh, Manpreet Singh, SK Uthappa, Devinder Walmiki, Harjeet Singh, Talwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh,  SV Sunil (vice-captain), Akashdeep Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah.

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