New Delhi (12 July, 2016): India’s 16-member men’s squad for Rio Olympics was announced on Tuesday in New Delhi by Hockey India president Narinder Batra in the presence of FIH president Leandro Negre and newly appointed Sports Minister Vijay Goel.
Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh will lead India’s charge in the Olympic Games instead of long-standing captain Sardar Singh who has been given a much more lethal role in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.
Forward S.V. Sunil, who had an excellent outing at the Hero Champions Trophy in London last month where the Indians reached the final for the first time in the history of the HCT, has been appointed vice-captain.
Indian hockey team Head Coach and High Performance Director, Roelant Oltmans, said the decision to relieve Sardar from the captaincy is aimed at ensuring the player does not suffer additional pressure on the pitch as the duty of captain comes with a very heavy responsibility.
Sardar, who recently led India to a silver medal in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, did not travel to London for the HCT last month.
“We felt that there was a need to invite others to take the responsibility on the pitch in Rio as team captain which will allow Sardar the option of playing his game with a free and open mind. He had too many responsibilities to tackle and because of this he was not performing at the level that is expected of him,” said Oltmans.
He added that the Team Management had explained to Sardar of their decision and the player accepted it very sportingly. He knows what is required of him in the Olympics and he is focused on the job.”
“For me, it is important that we perform as a team. We tried this combination of players in the Champions Trophy and it worked for us. This is the time to fine tune our processes and I have complete faith in our processes. I believe in this group of players,” Oltmans said.
In Rio, the Indians have for company in Group B reigning Olympic champions Germany, Netherlands, Argentina, Canada and Ireland.
While Hockey India made the biggest announcement on Sardar’s non-captaincy role in the Summer Olympics in a packed press conference, the governing body also dropped another surprise by announcing that seasonal team captain Ritu Rani has failed to make the women’s squad for the Olympic Games.
Instead defender Sushila Chanu will lead India’s women’s hockey team with Deepika as vice-captain of the 16-member squad. Hinalum Lal Ruat Feli and Rajani Etmarpu are the two reserves on standby.
The 24-year-old Ritu, one the brightest stars from Haryana, had left the national team’s training camp for the Rio Games in Bengaluru and returned home two days before the announcement of the final squad.
A member of the coaching staff said Ritu’s poor form and attitude led to her exclusion. The team is scheduled to compete in a three-nation Invitational tournament in Pennsylvania involving host United States and Canada from July 18-26 before heading to Rio for the Olympics.
India’s women’s team is drawn in Group B in Rio alongside Argentina, Australia, Great Britain, United States and Japan.
Men’s Team: Harmanpreet Singh, Rupinderpal Singh, Kothajit Singh, Surender Kumar, Manpreet Singh, Sardar Singh, VR Raghunath, SK Uthappa, PR Sreejesh (Capt), Danish Mujtaba, Devinder Walmiki, SV Sunil (Vice Capt), Akashdeep Singh, Chinglensana Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Nikkin Thimmaiah.
Women’s Team: Navjot Kaur, Deep Grace Ekka, Monika, Nikki Pradhan, Anuradha Devi Thokchom, Savita, Sushila Chanu (Capt) Poonam Rani, Vandana Katarya, Deepika (Vice Capt), Namita Toppo, Renuka Yadav, Sunita Lakra, Rani Rampal, Preeti Dubey, Llima Minz.
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