New Delhi, July 27: A 21-member Indian men's hockey team will embark on a 15-day tour of Europe starting July 31 under the watchful guidance of High Performance Director Roelant Oltmans, who will also take over as the chief coach of the side after the unceremonious ouster of Paul van Ass.
India will play 5 matches during the tour to France and Spain which will culminate on August 14. During the tour, seen as preparations for the all-important FIH Hockey World League Final to be held in the country later this year, India will play twice against France and thrice versus Spain.
The squad was selected following a preparatory camp held in Shilaroo near Shimla from July 19. Star midfielder Sardar Singh will continue to lead while goalkeeper PR Sreejesh will be his deputy.
The squad consists of two goalkeepers, six defenders, six midfielders and seven forwards. Ace dragflicker VR Raghunath, defenders Kothajit Singh, and Gurjinder Singh, midfielders SK Uthappa and Danish Mujtaba, and strikers SV Sunil, Mandeep Singh, Talwinder Singh, who were not part of the 18-member squad that finished fourth in the World League Semifinals in Antwerp, have all made comebacks to the side.
Forward Mohd Amir Khan is the lone new face in the team. Midfielder Manpreet Singh, Dharamvir Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Satbir Singh, Gurmail Singh and Yuvraj Walmiki have been omitted from the Europe tour squad.
Also to miss out was senior midfielder Gurbaj Singh, against whom Hockey India's Special Committee has recommended disciplinary action for alleged misbehaviour with the coaching staff and creating disharmony in the side. India will open their tour with a match against hosts France at Le Touquet.
Speaking on the significance of the tour, High Performance Director and India's new chief coach Oltmans said: "It's a very important series for us as this will be a base for us to understand how do we perform and deliver as a unit and the grey areas to be improved upon before the FIH World League Finals.
"After World League Finals, our next step is Rio Olympics. Hence from here on, all tournaments are very important for us. We have to keep working and growing as a team. We are not taking the upcoming series lightly as both the teams (France and Spain) are very competitive and playing against them will help better our tackle against the European style of hockey."
List of players
Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh, Harjot Singh
Defenders: Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, VR Raghunath, Jasjit Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Gurjinder Singh
Midfielders: Sardar Singh, Chinglensana Singh, SK Uthappa, Satbir Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Devinder Walmiki
Forwards: S V Sunil, Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Talwinder Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Mohd Amir Khan
August 3: India Vs France in Le Touquet
August 5: India Vs Franbce in Wattigies Sports Centre
August 10: India Vs Spain in Junior FC
August 12: India Vs Spain in Junior FC
August 13: India vs Spain in RC Polo