HOCKEY INDIA today announced the 18 member Indian Hockey team led by Sardar Singh that will take part in the 25th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup to be held in Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia from April 6-16.
Besides India, defending New Zealand, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, Australia, Pakistan, Japan, Canada and hosts Malaysia will be taking part in the annual tournament.
While Sardar Singh will lead the team as Captain, SV Sunil will be supporting him as the Vice-Captain. Besides two goalkeepers- Harjot Singh and Akash Anil Chikte, the squad will have five defenders: Rupinder Pal Singh, Jasjit Singh Kular, Kothajit Singh, Surender Singh, Harmanpreet Singh. The midfield will be under the leadership of skillful Sardar Singh and he will be assisted by Danish Mujtaba, Chinglensana Singh, Manpreet Singh, S K Uthappa, Harjeet Singh. While, Vice-Captain SV Sunil, Talwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah will form India’s forwardline.
With the 2016 Rio Olympics few months down the line, the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup will serve has as a barometer to measure the team’s preparation for the most important sporting event of the year, the 2016 Olympic Games.
“India has a good record in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and we would like to keep it that way. Being an Olympic year, this tournament assumes special importance as it will give us an idea where we stand. Playing against good teams like Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan and not to forget hosts Malaysia will give the team critical competition exposure. It will be a good opportunity trying out new things and new combinations in the tournament to see if they work,” said Sardar Singh, Captain of the Team
In preparation for the tournament, the Indian men’s team is currently undergoing a training camp that started on 7 March 2016 at the SAI Centre in Bangalore.
“The boys have been working hard as a unified unit and are geared up for the tournament ahead. Azlan Shah will be good testing ground for us right before the Rio Olympics and will be very crucial for the team. We are focused on improving the game technically and implement the right strategies.” said Chief Coach Roelant Oltmans.
One of the concern areas of the Indian team has been the tendency to concede late goal. The team has been working on plan to eliminate this flaw.
“In the past we have conceded late goals that have taken away the games from us. We want to eliminate that particular weakness. We have been working on it for some time now, which we will be able to put to test in the tournament,” he added.
Indian has enjoyed a good run in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup since it started as a biennial tournament in 1983 before becoming an annual affair since 1994. India has won the prestigious tournament five times in 1985, ’91, ’95, 2009 and 2010, while it earned bronze on six occasions and finished runners-up once in 2008. However, it won’t be easy for the men in blue to counter the likes of Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Malaysia. Host Team Malaysia will be eager to make an impact under their new Coach Stephen van Huizen.
The round-robin format of the tournament will help the team to get decent amount of competition exposure under its belt. It will also give them an opportunity to gauge the fitness level, since the conditions in Ipoh around this time of the year will be extremely hot and humid. The Indian team has shown considerable improvement in the fitness levels in the past couple of year.
The Indian Men Hockey Team for the Sultan of Azlan Shah Cup: