LONDON: High on confidence despite missing out on two experienced players on the eve of the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Final, India are expected to face an easy task when they take on minnows Scotland in their first match in Pool B here on Thursday.
Experienced defender Rupinder Pal Singh and midfielder S.K. Uthappa have been ruled out of the Indian squad, Hockey India (HI) announced on Wednesday.
Rupinder will be unavailable for the tournament due to a hamstring injury. The ace drag-flicker will be replaced by defender Jasjit Singh Kular, who also doubles up as a penalty corner specialist.
Kular has played 46 matches in an Indian jersey with five international goals to his name.
Uthappa, on the other hand, had to return home to attend to a family emergency. He will be replaced by Sumit Kumar.
Sumit made his debut for the senior India team at the 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup earlier this year. He had a successful stint with the junior India team last year during which they won the Junior Men's World Cup.
The 20-year-old from Sonepat district of Haryana was part of the 33-member core group that trained at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Bengaluru prior to this tournament.
However, head coach Roelant Oltmans is confident that the replacements will live up to the challenge.
"With a strong core group who have been working together since February this year, we have several options and I don't see this as a setback for us at all," he said.
India are placed in an easier Pool B, with the Netherlands only team ranked higher. Other teams in the pool are Pakistan and Canada. The other pool comprises Olympic 2016 champions Argentina, England, South Korea, Malaysia and China.
"You always want to start well in the pool stage. Playing a tournament like the Hero Hockey World League Semi Final is always challenging with a number of strong teams in the competition. The pools are equally strong too but based on the ranking in our pool, we have to get a good start against Scotland," said Oltmans.
Oltmans also laid stress on a better goal conversion rate to ensure a successful outing. The lead up to the opening encounter saw the Indian team led by midfielder Manpreet Singh win the practice match against England 3-1 on Tuesday with a successful dragflick by Harmanpreet Singh and a double goal by striker Mandeep Singh.
"To win this kind of tournaments, we have to get a higher percentage of goals out of our opportunities and concede less unnecessary goals. If we can manage this aspect of the game, then anything is possible to achieve for this team," he said.