Sardar Singh will get some much-needed rest before plotting India's charge at the Rio Olympics, with goalkeeper PR Sreejesh taking over the captain's role for the Champions Trophy. Hockey India named an 18-man squad for the FIH Champions Trophy, the last major tournament before the main thing in Rio in August.
India are coming off a strong showing in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, where they reached the final, before going down to the powerful Australia.
While that tournament showing would have given them satisfaction, tinged with a bit of disappointment, at losing the final to Australia, coach Roelant Oltmans will also know there is a long way to go if this team are to compete for a medal at the Rio Olympics.
As a result, a few more youngsters have been given an opportunity, with defender Harmanpreet retained in the squad after some impressive performances at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, while Harjeet Singh and Vikas Dahiya have been selected as Oltmans and the selectors look at all the options ahead of choosing the final squad for the Olympics.
The key news, though, is Sardar being rested, with drag-flicker Rupinder Pal Singh also given some time to rest those weary bones ahead of the Olympic challenge.
"It was pre-decided that Sardar will be rested for the Champions Trophy as he has been playing non-stop for quite some time," Hockey India president Narinder Batra told PTI. "He played in the Azlan Shah where Sreejesh was rested. Here Sreejesh is leading the side and Sardar gets much-needed rest."
Along with Sreejesh, VR Raghunath, another who was given a break for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, comes back in, with India putting out a pretty strong squad for the Champions Trophy.
"At the Champions Trophy, our aim will be to put in a class performance, and finish as high as we can," Sreejesh told Hockey India's official website. "Finishing with a medal at the tournament, will give us a lot of confidence going into the Olympics."
Evolving and turning into a better team is going to be Oltman's mantra for the Champions Trophy, along with getting the right results.
"It is important that we approach the tournament, not just with a view to winning it, but also to execute our tactics well, and learn from past mistakes and keep evolving," Oltmans said. "This will ensure, that as a team we are prime placed when we reach Rio, physically, mentally and tactically."
The Champions Trophy will be held in London from June 10-17.
India squad for the FIH Champions Trophy: P.R. Sreejesh (C), Vikas Dahiya, Pradeep Mor, V.R. Raghunath, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Manpreet Singh, S.K. Uthappa, Devinder Walmiki, Harjeet Singh, Talwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, S.V. Sunil (VC), Akashdeep Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah.