The disastrous performance at the London Olympics may have forced one into thinking that changes would be introduced to the hockey squad in an attempt to resurrect the team. There were talks of phasing out the ‘aging’ seniors who wouldn’t be around till the 2016 Games and bring in more youngsters.
However, all the players who were the part of the Olympics squad, continue to form the core group of the 48-member probables list for the Champions Trophy. Reason? Dearth of players.
A member of the selection committee told DNA there is a severe shortage of talent in the country and it has resulted in selecting the same players all over again. “There were very few players who managed to impress at the recently-concluded national championships,” the selector said. “Over the last two years, we haven’t found one good young player who can make the cut for the national team. The players we have now are the best in the country but they are certainly not the best to take on the world.”
Those ‘very few players’ include promising youngsters like Gurjinder Singh and Devinder Walmiki. However, the conflict between Hockey India and Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) means these, and a couple others, won’t be directly drafted into the national squad. These players were a part of the ‘rebel’ group who were a part of the controversial World Series Hockey. They are named in ‘standby’ list.
What is even more surprising is that Arjun Halappa, who was named the best forward at the nationals, has been ignored yet again along with the likes of Bharat Chikara. “All players who deserve to be a part of the probables list are included. It’s a list prepared by our selectors and there is no bias,” Hockey India secretary general Narendra Batra said.
The camp will begin at the NIS Patiala from October 15. Chief coach Michael Nobbs and physio David John, who are in Australia at present, are expected to return just in time for the camp. The national team’s first major assignment after the Olympics will be the Lanco International Super Series at Perth from November 22 to 25. The tournament will also feature the likes of England, Australia and Pakistan.
This will be followed by Champions Trophy in Melbourne from December 1 to 9, featuring hosts Australia, Belgium, England, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand and Pakistan, apart from India.