CHENNAI: The headline news from India’s 18-man World Cup squad revolves around players who missed the bus for a variety of reasons. Attacking mainstays SV Sunil and Ramandeep Singh and defender Rupinder Pal Singh, a veteran of many a blue-riband competition, were all omitted as the likes of Biren Lakra, who sustained an injury at the Asian Games, got the nod. Interestingly, seven of the 18 had tasted success at the Junior World Cup in 2016.
Was that a clear ploy by coach Harendra Singh or did it happen by chance? While it did happen by accident, the coach who led the Men In Blue to victory at Lucknow in that Junior World Cup, feels ‘this is an all-round squad... one of the contenders to win the tournament’. He also elaborated on why the likes of Sunil, one of the very few Indian players who can run at pace at the opposition defence, couldn’t be picked.
“The call to not pick him for the final 18 was based on the physio’s recommendation,” Harendra said. While the knee injury he picked up during a training session last month had completely healed, the coach did not want to select a player who has not played too many matches after recovery. Ramandeep’s exclusion was also on similar lines. He is yet to recover after hurting his knee at the Champions Trophy in June.
Harendra was more intimate when speaking about Rupinder’s absence. “That was based on his performances in the last 3-4 months. We want to pick players based on their performance in training and competitive environment, we don’t want to pick names.” That’s a tacit admission that the 27-year-old was dropped. Considering that he is a penalty corner specialist, it may hamper India’s chances from dead balls if Harmanpreet Singh and Varun Kumar — the specialists in the squad — don’t find their touch.
But Harendra doesn’t believe it will be an issue. “This is the best combination we have at our disposal and I’m satisfied with the team we have selected,” he said. “Our players are capable of playing the hockey we seek, with most of our midfielders and forwards capable of inter-changing.”
Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh, Krishan Pathak. Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Biren Lakra, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar, Amit Rohidas. Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (in pic), Chinglensana Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Hardik Singh, Sumit. Forwards: Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Lalit Kumar, Simranjeet Singh.