New Delhi: The Indian hockey squad for the upcoming Azlan Shah Cup was announced on Tuesday with veteran striker Arjun Halappa donning the role of captain.
Rajpal Singh, the previous captain who had resigned following a public spat with Jose Brasa, was not named in the team.
Besides Rajpal, who is yet to fully recover from an injury, the squad, announced after a two day trial here, does not have drag-flicker Sandeep Singh and defender Sardara Singh, besides midfielder Bharat Chikara and striker Tushar Khandekar.
Six players were also named as standbys after a selection committee meeting today attended by Col Balbir Singh (Sr), B P Govinda, Syed Ali, Manohar Toppo, Thoiba Singh and two government nominees Dilip Tirkey and Harbinder Singh.
Addressing a press conference, national coach Harendra Singh said the selectors have picked the best available squad due to injury to some senior players and the seven-team tournament would serve as the build-up to Champions Trophy (here in December) and the 2012 Olympic qualifiers (here next February).
"The selectors have picked the best available squad. We have left out some six-seven senior players as they are not fully fit. We are taking Azlan Shah as a build-up and it will give a good exposure to the young players," he said.
"Our main aim is to qualify for the 2012 Olympics and do well in the Champions Trophy. The main objective is to have a core group of 24-28 players for the Olympic qualifiers. We need to qualify for the Olympics," Harendra said.
Sandeep and Sardara were apparently not considered for the tournament as they did not report for the national camp which began from May 1 at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium.
However, striker Gurwinder Singh Chandi, who was hit by the ball on his face during the camp, has been named in the squad as he has been cleared after medical examination.
"We have done an X-Ray yesterday and there is no problem on Chandi. We are also taking a third opinion from another doctor from AIIMS who had treated goalkeeper Baljit Singh earlier. We are hoping that he would be fully fit before the team departs on April 29," Harendra said.
Harendra, who is in his first assignment as head coach, said Rajpal, who captained the side in the World Cup, Commonwealth and Asian Games, has been suffering from a lower abdominal pain and has been rested in view of more important tournaments ahead.
"Rajpal is suffering from lower abdominal pain. There is no treatment for this other than strengthening the abdominal muscle and take rest. He has not played much in recent times. We did not want to take any chances. He is a crucial player. We will need him in future tournaments," he said.