New Delhi: Experienced midfielder Danish Mujtaba was on Wednesday dropped from the Indian hockey team selected for the Test tour of New Zealand while Dharamvir Singh, Manpreet Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah made a comeback to the squad.
The team was picked out of the 26 probables announced on August 31. While Dharamvir and Manpreet have returned to the side following their recovery from injuries, they replaced Mujtaba and Talwinder Singh. On the other hand, Nikkin, who was dropped for the tour of Europe in August, will replace Mohd. Amir Khan in the forward line of the 21-member experimental squad.
"Yes, you can say that Danish has not been picked for the tour. We are trying out different combinations. Of course, our main aim is the Olympics but we are also preparing for the Hockey World League (HWL) Final," India chief coach Roelant Oltmans told IANS.
"Danish is not going with us but Dharamvir, Manpreet and Nikkin are back. We are taking a strong midfield team and there is a lot of emphasis on it. But this combination can later be changed. Nothing is fixed. We will continue trying new combinations."
Not just the midfield but Oltmans, who is Hockey India's (HI) high performance director as well, has also selected as many as four penalty corner specialists -- Rupinder Pal Singh, V.R. Raghunath, Jasjit Singh Kular and Gurjinder Singh -- for the October 2-11 tour of New Zealand.
"We have to try out new combinations and new forms of execution to give the team the best possible chance," explained Oltmans.
India will will play four Test matches against the Black Sticks on October 6, 7 (both in Nelson), 9 and 11 (both in Christchurch). They will also play two practice games on October 2 and 3 against New Zealand A in Auckland.
The Hockey World League (HWL) Final will be played in Raipur from November 27 to December 6 while the 2016 Olympics will be held from August 5 to 21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The squad was selected post a three-week preparatory camp at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here. The team will as usual be led by Sardar Singh with goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh as his deputy.
"The boys are looking forward to the tournament and are confident of a positive show. Also Dave Staniforth recently held a three-week goalkeeping camp which has got the goalkeepers pepped up and are waiting to exhibit the learnings under the bar," added Oltmans.
"It is a motivation to see a squad which oozes confidence. The team in the last couple of weeks has worked on team coordination and passes. The idea is to convert when in the D and not lose out on those moments."
Goalkeepers: P.R. Sreejesh (vice-captain), Harjot Singh.
Defenders: Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, V.R. Raghunath, Jasjit Singh Kular, Rupinder Pal Singh, Gurjinder Singh.
Midfielders: Sardar Singh (captain), Chinglensana Singh, S.K. Uthappa, Satbir Singh, Devinder Walmiki, Manpreet Singh, Dharamvir Singh.
Forwards: S.V. Sunil, Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Nikkin Thimmaiah.