Star goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh was handed over the mantle of the Indian men’s hockey team, replacing veteran midfielder Sardar Singh, who, however, retains his place in the squad for the upcoming Rio Olympics, starting August 5.
In the 16-member Rio squad announced by Hockey India (HI) chief Narinder Batra here, injured defender Birendra Lakra has ignored and Surender Kumar has been named his replacement. Forward S.V. Sunil has been named Sreejesh’s deputy.
Sreejesh led the Roelant Oltmans-coached side to a silver medal at the Champions Trophy in London in June, where Sardar was rested. In the subsequent six-nation invitational tournament that followed the Champions Trophy, Sardar came back to lead the side only to finish at a disappointing fifth.
In Rio, India have been clubbed with giants Germany and Netherlands, where the hockey competition for the first time will see quarter-finals after the league stage. Top four teams from each of the two groups progress to the last-eight stage.
India finished last among the 12 countries that participated at the London Olympics in 2012. The five-time gold medal winners, however, were the first team to qualify for Rio after they beat Pakistan in the 2014 Asian Games final.
Sardar had recently invited controversy after a fallout with a British girl who has alleged the veteran midfielder of attempt to rape.
The function was attended by BJP top boss Amit Shah, Sports Minister Vijay Goel and HI vice president Anurag Thakur, apart from FIH president Leandro Negre.
Rio squad: Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar, Manpreet Singh, Sardar Singh, V.R. Raghunath, S.K. Uthappa, P.R. Sreejesh (Captain, GK), Danish Mujtaba, Devinder Walmiki, S.V. Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Nikkin Thimmiah.
Standbyes: Pardeep Mor, Vikash Dahiya.