Gurbaj, Mujtaba back in India fold
New Delhi: Experienced Gurbaj Singh and Danish Mujtaba today made a comeback to India's 21-member men's hockey team for this month's preparatory tour to Europe ahead of the FIH World Cup to be held at The Hague, Netherlands from May 31 to June 15.
Gurbaj, one of three senior players including Sandeep Singh and Vikran Kanth who were called back to the national camp by chief coach Terry Walsh, last wore the India colours in the country's forgettable 12th place finish at the 2012 London Olympics.
Since then he was given a cold shoulder by the national selectors but right-half Gurbaj fought against all odds to regain his place in the national team with his superb passing and tireless work that played a key role in securing the Hero Hockey India League 2 crown for Delhi Waveriders this year.
Mujtaba, a talented midfielder, also returned to the side, to be captained by Sardar Singh, after being laid low for nearly 10 months due to a serious injury in his right knee that needed a surgery. However, ace drag-flicker and former captain Sandeep, who was the top-scorer of HIL this year, did not find a place in the side.
Forwards Ramandeep Singh and Akashdeep Singh also returned to the side after sitting out of the Hero Hockey World League Final which was held here in January this year.
Defender Gurinder Singh, midfielder Devindar Walmiki and striker Lalit Upadhyay are three new names in the 21-member squad. Among other notable absentees are defender Amit Rohidas, midfielder M B Aiyappa, Affan Yousuf and injured Mandeep Singh.
While Sardar will lead the side, drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh has been named his deputy for the European tour where India will play five build-up games in The Hague, Netherlands from April 9-19.
The squad has two goalkeepers in experienced PR Sreejesh and young Harjot Singh. The squad was handpicked by Hockey India selectors BP Govinda, Syed Ali and R P Singh alongwith Roelant Oltmans, Director High Performance and chief coach Terry Walsh on the basis of the selection trials conducted at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here on March 20 and 21.
The squad will depart for The Netherlands on April 9 where it will play five preparatory games, including two against the national team of The Netherlands and one against Belgium. India will start their tour with a game against Dutch national club Leiden on April 11, followed by matches against another club side HGC (April 14), Belgium (April 15) and The Netherlands (April 17 and 19).
Squad: Goalkeepers: PR Sreejesh, HarjotSingh. Defenders: Birendra Lakra, Rupinder Pal Singh (vice-captain), VR Raghunath, Kothajit Singh, Gurinder Singh, Gurbaj Singh. Midfielders: Sardar Singh (captain), SK Uthappa, Dharamvir Singh, Manpreet Singh, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Danish Mujtaba, Devindar Walmiki. Forwards: SV Sunil, Nikkin Thimmaiah, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Yuvraj Walmiki, Lalit Upadhyay.