VR Ragunath to captain Indian hockey team in Australia

Sitam Chaki
|Published November 11, 2016

Indian national hockey Goalkeeper, PR Sreejesh, has been rested for India’s four-nation hockey challenge in Australia later this month. Experienced drag-flicker VR Raghunath, on the other hand, returns to the side to lead the Indian hockey team.

Raghunath, incidentally, had been rested for last month’s Asian Champions Trophy in Kuantan, Malaysia. Sreejesh, who captained India in the Asian Champions Trophy, misses out on selection. He continues to recuperate from a knee injury sustained in the Asian Champions Trophy semi-final against South Korea.

Defender and drag-flicker, Rupinder Pal Singh, will be Raghunath’s deputy for the tour Down Under. Rupinder was also the top scorer in Malaysia. Sreejesh’s absence allows Akash Chikte to continue as the goalkeeper. Uttar Pradesh’s Abhinav Kumar Pandey is the second custodian in the squad.

Chikte had come up with an outstanding performance in the Asian Champions Trophy final against arch-rivals Pakistan to help India clinch the title. “Abhinav has been in and out of the camps. He has had a knee injury for a while, but has made a strong comeback and we are pleased with his performance in this camp,” said India’s chief coach Roelant Oltmans.

Apart from Sreejesh, the absentees include senior strikers SV Sunil and Ramandeep Singh. While Sunil is yet to fully recover from the wrist injury he sustained at the Rio Olympics, Ramandeep, who replaced Sunil for Malaysia, has been sidelined because of health issues.

“Both Sreejesh and Sunil will remain in SAI for rehabilitation. Also, Sreejesh has willingly stepped up to spend some time with the junior team’s goalkeepers. He has already starting working with them and will assist Dave Staniforth, who is joining us next week. This is great for the young boys and sharing his experience with them ahead of the Junior World Cup,” Oltmans said.

Oltmans will remain with the junior team, while strategic coach Roger van Gent will accompany the senior team to Australia. The players making comebacks include midfielder Manpreet Singh and forward Akashdeep Singh.

Besides India and hosts Australia, the four-nation tournament features Malaysia and New Zealand. The tournament will start on 23 November and will be followed by a Test series between India and Australia.

Skipper Raghunath sounded upbeat about the team’s chances in Australia. “The Asian Champions Trophy win has boosted the morale of the players and the team’s spirit is high. However, playing in Australia is a different challenge and we are up for it. We have beaten Australia in their home earlier in 2014, and we will be looking for a repeat performance this time too,” he said.

Full Squad

Goalkeepers: Akash Chikte, Abhinav Kumar Pandey
Defenders: VR Raghunath (captain), Rupinder Pal Singh (vice-captain), Pardeep Mor, Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar
Midfielders: Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Manpreet Singh, Sardar Singh, S K Uthappa
Forwards: Talwinder Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Affan Yousuf, Mohammad Amir Khan, Satbir Singh, Akashdeep Singh

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