New Delhi: Hockey India on Monday announced India's 16-member men's hockey squad for the London Olympics, ending days of speculation. But as expected, the squad is without any major surprises.
To be led by goalkeeper Bharat Chetri, only two changes were made from the squad that finished third in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament in Malaysia, with striker Yuvraj Walmiki and defender Rupinderpal Singh being left out for Gurwinder Singh Chandi and veteran Ignace Tirkey respectively.
Walmiki and Rupinderpal's axing was on the expected lines as the duo had been struggling of late. Walmiki has also not fully recovered from the injury he sustained during the Olympic qualifying event in February, though he played in Malaysia.
The squad was picked after a two-day selection trials at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune on June 6 and 7. Star mid-fielder Sardar Singh will be the vice-captain of the team.
The selectors decided to go in with two goalkeepers in captain Chetri and PR Sreejesh for the quadrennial sporting extravaganza to be held in London from July 27 to August 12.
According to the squad announced by Hockey India, Sarwanjeet Singh and Kothajit Singh would travel with the team to London as standbys. The duo can only be included in the main team in case of any serious injury to the first 16 players.
Veteran Tirkey will marshal the three-man Indian defence along with drag-flick duo of Sandeep Singh and VR Raghunath. Talismanic Sardar will lead the mid-field, India's strongest area, in company of Manpreet Singh, Birendra Lakra and Gurbaj Singh.
Striker Gurwinder Singh Chandi made a return to the squad after recovering from his hamstring injury sustained during the Olympic test event in London last month. Shivendra Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Tushar Khandker, SV Sunil, Dharamvir Singh and SK Uthappa complete the forward line-up.
Eight-time champions India have been placed in Pool B alongside Germany, Korea, New Zealand, Belgium and the Netherlands.
India will open their Olympic campaign against the Netherlands on July 30 at the Riverbank Arena, followed by matches against New Zealand (August 1), reigning Olympic champions Germany (August 3), Korea (August 4) and Belgium (August 7).
Goalkeepers: Bharat Chetri (captain), PR Sreejesh.
Defenders: V R Raghunath, Ignace Tirkey, Sandeep Singh.
Mid-fielders: Sardar Singh (vice-captain), Gurbaj Singh, Birendra Lakra, Manpreet Singh.
Forwards: S V Sunil, Gurwinder Singh Chandi, Shivendra Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Tushar Khandker, Dharamvir Singh, S K Uthappa.
Standbys: Sarwanjit Singh, Kothajit Singh.
Officials: Michael Nobbs (chief coach), Mohd Riaz (coach), Clarence Lobo (coach), David John (manager), Shrikant Iyengar (physiotherapist), Hari Shanker Narayanan (video analyst).