Selectors have named Indian team for Asian Champions Trophy and the biggest name missing from the team is Indian captain Arjun Halappa who is ruled out of the team due to groin injury. According to the selectors, they have selected the best team looking at the upcoming Champions Trophy and the Olympic qualifiers. This is how I feel about the Indian team for Asian Champions Trophy.
Due to injuries, Shivendra Singh and Tushar Khandekar have missed the place in the Indian 18 member squad and only well experienced forward in the team is Rajpal Singh. This Indian team is lacking experience in the forward line and the best thing to do was to give Prabhjot Singh a chance. Prabhjot Singh is the best left outfield player Indian team has seen in the last decade and there has been no other player since World Cup (Prabhjot’s last tournament) who has staked claim on the place. Prabhjot might be on the wrong side of 30 but he still has 2 years left in him and the selectors should have taken him in the team. Selectors have given chance to Sarvanjit Singh, Gurvinder Chandi, Roshan Minz, SV Sunil who have not impressive enough to keep Prabhjot Singh out of the team. The only good thing about this forward line is return of Rajpal Singh. Rajpal Singh has a great speed and good stick work which will be a great advantage to this Indian side. Overall the attacking line of Indian team is pretty inexperienced which makes is going to make goal scoring difficult. The main focus of Indian attack will be on earning penalty corners.
In midfield, Indian team is missing Arjun Halappa and in his absence, Gurbaj Singh will have to shoulder the responsibility of the team’s creativity and helping the forward line. Selectors have not taken experienced Vikram Pillay in the team and given a chance of Ignace Tirkey this time. Also some youngsters are given chance but one extra experienced midfield player would not have done any harm to the team. All the pressure will be on Gurbaj and Ignace to hold the midfield and prevent defence from being exposed. The midfield of Indian team is bit unbalanced and the new players Manpreet Singh and Manjit Kullu’s performance will be under observation.
One positive thing about this team selection is the return of Sandeep Singh and Sardar Singh in Indian defence. Sandeep might not be a great defender but his pairing with Sardar Singh who is best player of the team will plug the hole in leaky Indian defence. Also partnering them will be Rupinder Pal Singh whose performance in the Sultan Azlan Shah got the attention of both selectors and fans. Another young player Harpreet Singh is given the chance to impress and his performance will also decide the fate of Indian team. Indian team has missed Dilip Tirkey in the defence and since his retirement, Indian hockey has been unable to find any replacement. If we sum up the defence of Indian team, it is pretty good with Sardar Singh and Sandeep Singh guarding the goal.
Selectors did not select Adrian D’Souza because he failed to apologise for missing the training to attend World Series Hockey meet. Adrian performed very well in the trials and his name was first on the list but the selectors removed him and gave chance to Bharat Chetri and PR Sreejesh who will take the responsibility of saving the goals for the Indian team. Both Chetri and Sreejesh are able custodian and will surely give good performance. Bharat is likely to get more opportunities compared to Sreejesh. The goalkeepers in the team are good but having Adrian would have given them more advantage.
The selectors should have done little more to select the team. Despite having 8 forwards in 18 member squad the forward line looks inexperienced while and extra midfielder and defender would have helped the team a lot.
PS – Indian team should not test younger players in the tournament like this. To test younger players they should form India ‘A’ team of play more invitational tournaments. We cannot compare ourselves to Australia and other European nations.