Hockey India on Friday named a 33-man core probables' list for national camp ahead of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and Commonwealth Games (CWG) — the first two major events of what is going to be a gruelling season.
After an impressive outing in New Zealand where India tested its younger players, with four of them making their international debut, and even tasted victories against Japan, hosts New Zealand as well as World No. 3 Belgium, the team will return to the national camp starting Sunday at the Sports Authority of India centre in Bengaluru.
It is a crucial year for the men’s team with major events lined up starting with the prestigious 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup from March 3 to 10, followed by the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games starting April 4.
While the Asian Games in August will be a litmus test, where the team will look to defend its gold medal in order to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games and remain No. 1 in Asia.
The year will also see the team play against top nations at the FIH Champions Trophy in Breda, Netherlands and at the World Cup in Bhubaneswar.
While the next two weeks for chief coach Sjoerd Marijne will be about evaluating the team’s performance in New Zealand, he also needs to ensure his men are mentally fresh and ready to embrace the challenge.
“The next two weeks will not just be about evaluating our performance in New Zealand but also to implement the changes to improve really fast. We have short time to ready the 18 players for Sultan Azlan Shah Cup but with a two-week break, I can expect the players to come back fresh and hungry for the ball,” said Marijne.
Emphasising on the need to stay focused on improving their game, Marijne said, “I don’t want the team to be busy with the things we cannot control such as outside pressure of winning. I want them to go match by match, tournament by tournament and embrace the challenge of playing big events. I need them to not just be physically at their 100 per cent but also mentally and for that we will work with players individually.”
At the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, the team will play World. No. 1 Australia, World No. 2 Argentina as well as England, who are grouped with India at the Commonwealth Games.
About playing these world-class teams, Marijne said, “It will be another opportunity to gauge how close we are coming to the best teams in the world. We just did well against World No. 3 in both New Zealand and the Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar, now we play World No. 1 and World. No. 2 which will be yet another chance to gain knowledge about their different playing styles.”
Goalkeepers: Akash Anil Chikte, Suraj Karkera, PR Sreejesh, Krishan B Pathak
Defenders: Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas, Dipsan Tirkey, Varun Kumar, Rupinderpal Singh, Birendra Lakra, Surender Kumar, Gurinder Singh, Nilam Sanjeep Xess, Sardar Singh
Midfielders: Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh, SK Uthappa, Sumit, Kothajit Singh, Satbir Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Simranjeet Singh, Harjeet Singh
Forwards: SV Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Armaan Qureshi, Affan Yousuf, Talwinder Singh, Sumit Kumar.