Sardar ‘happy’ being rested; Sreejesh to lead India in Champions Trophy

New Delhi, May 17 (IANS) Insisting that the Olympics are more important than any other tournament, Indian hockey team skipper Sardar Singh said he is happy with the selection committee’s decision to rest him from the 18-member Champions Trophy squad announced on Tuesday.

Sardar alongwith ace drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh was rested from the national squad as top goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh was named captain for the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Champions Trophy in London from June 10 to 17.

Appreciating the move, Sardar said it is a part of Hockey India’s rotation policy and he is happy with whatever the selectors decide, keeping in mind the upcoming Rio Olympics.

“It (resting seniors) is the decision of the selectors and I am happy with it. I have been playing non-stop for quite some time. Even Sreejesh was rested for Sultan Azlan Shah tournament, so it is part of the rotation policy,” Sardar told IANS.

“Playing back-to-back tournaments has its toll on the body of the players and they need a break. Olympics is more important than these tournaments. There are no injury concerns and the body is responding well,” he added.

Striker S.V. Sunil has been retained as the vice-captain of the squad which also has seasoned first team players like V.R. Ragunath, Kothajit Singh, S.K. Uthappa, Akashdeep Singh to name a few.

Raghunath and Akashdeep were rested during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in April.

Defender Harmanpreet Singh, one of the outstanding performers from the team’s silver medal winning Azlan Shah Cup team, finds himself retained in the squad, and was joined by his Under-21 colleagues, Harjeet Singh and goalkeeper Vikas Dahiya. Dahiya will be a back up to Sreejesh in the squad.

The 29-year-old further said that the team has a good mix of youth and experience and the tournament will be a good opportunity for coach Roelant Oltmans to check out the youngsters.

“Its a balanced side, hopefully the coach can try out some of the talented youngsters during the tournament,” Sardar said.

India had finished fourth in the 2014 Champions Trophy held in Bhubaneswar and the side will look to deliver a medal in London.

“At the Champions Trophy, our aim will be to put in a class performance, and finish as high as we can,” Sreejesh said in a statement.

“Finishing with a medal at the tournament will give us a lot of confidence going into the Olympics.”

Oltmans also echoed the same sentiments. “It is important that we approach the tournament, not just with a view to winning it, but also to execute our tactics well, and learn from past mistakes and keep evolving.

“This will ensure, that as a team we are prime placed when we reach Rio, physically, mentally and tactically,” he added.

Squad: P.R. Sreejesh (Captain), Vikas Dahiya, Pradeep Mor, V.R. Raghunath, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Manpreet Singh, S.K. Uthappa, Devinder Sunil Walmiki, Harjeet Singh, Talwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, S.V. Sunil (Vice-Captain), Akashdeep Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah.



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