Senior players Sandeep Singh and Shivendra Singh were axed from India’s 18-member hockey squad for the Lanco International Super Series and Champions Trophy in Australia on Monday.
With an eye on future, Hockey India selectors made as many as seven changes from the squad that represented India in the London Olympics earlier this year, where they finished a disappointing 12th. The selectors had earlier dropped Bharat Chetri, who was the captain in London, Tushar Khandker and Ignace Tirkey from the probables list. Gurbaj Singh and striker Sarvanjit Singh, who too were part of the Olympics squad, have also been dropped from the Australia-bound team.
Promising striker Yuvraj Walmiki, who was left out of the Olympics squad due to a hamstring injury, returned to the squad along with defender Rupinderpal Singh. Nithin Thimmaiah and Akashdeep Singh were the two new inclusion in the forward line, while PR Sreejesh and PT Rao are the two goalkeepers in the squad. Defender Harbir Singh and mid-fielder Gurmail Singh are also two new faces in the national team. Star midfielder Sardar Singh will lead the team in both the tournaments in Australia, while defender VR Raghunath has been named his deputy.
The exclusion of Sandeep and Shivendra doesn’t come as a surprise as the selectors and coach Michael Nobbs had hinted earlier that new faces will be added to the squad in order to prepare for the future tournaments. Despite his drag-flick prowess Sandeep, according to a selector, was turning into a ‘liability’ because of his defensive abilities while Shivendra lacked sharpness up front. Sandeep said: “Obviously, it’s disappointing. Let me digest the news first, then I’ll see what can be done.”
Champions Trophy, dubbed as the mini World Cup, begins from December 2 in Melbourne while the Lanco Super Series will take place in Perth from November 22-25.