Veteran Indian hockey team midfielder and former captain Sardar Singh, who recently led India at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, has been dropped from the 18-member hockey squad for the prestigious Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, which are slated to begin on April 4.
Sardar Singh not at his Prime form
The exclusion of Sardar Singh seems to have come in the wake of his below-par performance at this year’s Azlan Shah tournament. He has been an integral part of the Indian hockey team for a major part of the last decade, but has fallen out of favour over the past one year.
The Indian team is grouped in Pool B along with Pakistan, Malaysia, Wales, England and will begin their campaign on April 7 against Pakistan.
In his absence, midfielder Manpreet Singh has been named as the captain of the Indian team for the XXI Commonwealth Games. The responsibilities of vice-captain will be shouldered by Chinglensana Singh Kangujam.
It was under Manpreet’s leadership the Indian team lifted the coveted Asia Cup 2017 followed by a Bronze Medal feat at the Odisha Men’s Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017.
Freeman and drag-flick expert Rupinder Pal Singh will form India’s wall of defense along with Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh, Gurinder Singh and Amit Rohidas, while the goalpost will be guarded by India’s experienced goalkeeper PR Sreejesh who made a strong comeback into the team during the New Zealand Tour where he displayed some exceptional goalkeeping abilities. He will be backed by the 22-year-old talent Suraj Karkera, who played a crucial part in the team’s good show in Bhubaneswar last year in his senior counterpart’s absence.
Manpreet to lead the midfield charge in absence of Sardar Singh
India’s midfield will see skipper Manpreet Singh in the lead role, ably supported by the experience of Chinglensana, along with young blood in Sumit and Vivek Sagar Prasad. The Indian attack will feature a lethal combination between experience and youth as SV Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh and Dilpreet Singh are all in the team.
Dilpreet Singh and Vivek Sagar Prasad, who made their international debut during the New Zealand tour, have been rewarded with this opportunity for a good show where the duo scored in important games.
“This team has been picked keeping in mind the team’s performance in the previous tournaments since the Asia Cup 2017. We have tried out different combinations in the past events and we believe this will be the most effective combination for the Gold Coast 2018 XXI Commonwealth Games,” asserted Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne.
He further stated that the team has a winning mindset and will look to aim for the best in the quadrennial event.
“This team has been improving with every match and while we could not produce a podium finish at the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2018, it will have no influence on how we are going to play in Australia and we will be going there with a mindset to win,” said the 43-year-old Dutch Coach.
In the previous two outings at the Commonwealth Games, India has finished second behind Australia. Skipper Manpreet Singh, however, is confident of turning the tables this time.
“Our first aim is to do well in the group stage because we have some strong teams in our Pool. It’s extremely crucial to top our table and make the Semis but if we do meet Australia in the knockouts, I believe we will be up for a strong challenge.” said the 25-year-old Manpreet Singh.