CHENNAI : The test for a few members of the Sultan Azlan Shah-bound squad is simple. Prove their worth to be in with a chance of featuring in the Hockey Series Finals, a pre Olympic qualifier, slated to be held in Bhubaneswar in June. While 13 of the 18 members who featured at the World Cup are going to Ipoh, the focus will be on the likes of Vivek Sagar Prasad, Shilanand Lakra and Gurjant Singh, all players with potential but who haven’t yet proved their mettle at the elite level.
While there are bound to be changes for the meet in Bhubaneswar — one look at injured list (SV Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Rupinderpal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh and regular vice-captain Chinglensana Singh) confirms that — a few places could be up for grabs. For example, the likes of Shilanand, who made his debut in the same competition last year, knows the management is actively on the look out for a clinical striker. It’s been an Achilles Heel of late and the 20-year-old, who scored three goals in Ipoh in 2018, could make that position his.
Another player who will be extensively watched is Prasad, a player with immense potential. Earmarked as the midfielder who would replace Sardar Singh, the still 19-year-old, who captained the juniors to a silver at the Youth Olympics in hockey 5s, is yet to prove that he can control the tempo against senior sides on a consistent basis. If he can do that, he will surely find a place in Bhubaneswar.
HI High performance director, David John, sang from the same hymn sheet. “It is a relatively young side but each of these players have tremendous potential,” he had told the official HI website. “It is important to see how they fare in Malaysia as it will show the depth we possess in the core group ahead of the Olympic qualification events this year. He also expressed hope that some of the senior players, currently undergoing rehabilitation in Bengaluru, would be back in time for the Series Finals.
“It is unfortunate we will be missing some key players. However, it is important for them to return to 100 per cent fitness ahead of the FIH Series Final which is a crucial tournament in our quest for 2020 Olympic berth.”
Squad for Azlan Shah: Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh, Krishan B Pathak. Defenders: Gurinder Singh, Surender Kumar (v- c), Varun Kumar, Birendra Lakra, Amit Rohidas, Kothajit Singh Khadangbam. Midfielders: Hardik Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Sumit, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Manpreet Singh (c). Forwards: Mandeep Singh, Simranjeet Singh, Gurjant Singh, Shilanand Lakra, Sumit Kumar.