CHENNAI: April 27, 2018. “Hockey India on Friday announced PR Sreejesh as captain of the senior men’s team until the end of 2018.” Manpreet Singh had lost his place as captain as a fallout of India’s poor show in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. September 26, 2018. “The team (for the Asian Champions Trophy) will be captained by Manpreet Singh.”
That was one of the big takeaways as HI announced a 18-member team on Wednesday for the upcoming Asian competition, beginning in Muscat from October 18. Even though India failed at the Asian Games (bronze), they finished runners-up at the Champions League (June-July) under Sreejesh. So why the change? More pertinently, why did HI go back on their word? HI termed it as a long-term approach, even if it means playing musical chairs with the captain.
“This decision was made keeping in mind the long-term,” a top official told Express. “Manpreet can be our captain for the next 2-4 years.” Where was this thinking when they decided to axe the midfielder in April? “The reason why he was axed as captain then was because we felt there had to be a reaction. We shouldn’t have finished fourth, the top three was the mandate.” So this means the 26-year-old will be captain for the World Cup? Nope. Wrong. HI, amazingly, have not yet decided. “Well, that’s the plan but never say never,” the official said. The other newsworthy aspect of the squad is the absence of both Rupinderpal Singh and SV Sunil. There were rumours that both of them may have been dropped but the official contradicted those claims.
“They are being rested for the Muscat tournament. They should both be back after this.” The World No 5, who are the defending champions, will open their campaign against hosts Oman on October 18 before facing the likes of Pakistan (Oct 21) and Malaysia (Oct 24). The semifinals and final are slated for October 27 and October 28.
Lakra doubtful for WC
Defender Biren Lakra, who went to Jakarta for the Asian Games, is losing his race to be fit in time for the World Cup. Express has learnt that that’s the main reason HI called up Amit Rohidas to the camp. They feel that he is unlikely to be fit in time for the marquee event beginning November 28 and called up Rohidas as a defensive cover. “We called up Rohidas as a defensive cover as the initial prognosis with respect to Lakra’s injury was not right,” the HI official added. firstname.lastname@example.org
Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh, Krishan Pathak. Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Gurinder Singh, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar, Jarmanpreet Singh, Hardik Singh. Midfielders: Manpreet Singh (C), Sumit, Nilakanta Sharma, Lalit Kumar, Chinglensana Singh. Forwards: Akashdeep Singh, Gurjant Singh, Mandeep Singh, Dilpreet Singh.
FIXTURES (India only)
Oct 18: vs Oman. Oct 20: vs Pakistan. Oct 21: vs Japan Oct 23: vs Malaysia Oct 24: vs Korea. Oct 27: Semifinal. Oct 28: Playoff and final.