India hockey squad for the upcoming Sultan Azlan Shah Cup has been announced with Sardar Singh set to lead the team in the competition. The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is set to be played from April 6 to 16 in Malaysia.
India have selected a strong group of players for the competition, which includes star players like Rupinder Pal Singh, Manpreet Singh, SV Sunil and Mandeep Singh. India, who have been successful in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, are looking for their sixth title. The selected players played an integral part in the Hockey India League, which concluded earlier in the year.
However, India are going to face stiff competition from other teams -- Australia, Pakistan, Japan, Canada and hosts Malaysia. With the Rio Olympics just five months away, India can use this competition as perfect preparation for the mega event in Rio, and they will also be able to understand their strengths and weaknesses when they are pitted against top teams likes Pakistan and Australia.
"India has a good record in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and we would like to keep it that way. Being an Olympic year, this tournament assumes special importance as it will give us an idea where we stand," the Press Trust of India quoted Sardar as saying.
"Playing against good teams like Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan and not to forget hosts Malaysia will give the team critical competition exposure. It will be a good opportunity trying out new things and new combinations in the tournament to see if they work."
India come into this competition with decent form as they won bronze medal in the Hockey World League in Raipur, defeating Netherlands in penalties. However, the competition also showed India's weak defence and more importantly their offensive players' failure to convert goals, and lack of quality in the final third.
Forwards such as Mandeep, Ramandeep Singh and Nikkin Thimmaiah will need to be at their best in the Sultan Azlan Shah, and build their confidence for Rio Olympics.
India squad for Sultan Azlan Shah Cup
Sardar Singh (C), SV Sunil, Harjot Singh, Akash Anil Chikte, Rupinder Pal Singh, Jasjit Singh Kular, Kothajit Singh, Surender Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Chinglensana Singh, Manpreet Singh, S K Uthappa, Harjeet Singh, Talwinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah.