Bengaluru, Nov 4:
A shoulder injury has forced proven forward Nikkin Thimmaiah to miss the cut as experienced midfielder Danish Mujtaba was recalled to the Indian squad announced on Wednesday for the three-match Test series against Australia followed by the prestigious year-ending Hockey World League (HWL) Final.
The others to miss the cut in the 18-member squad were defender Gurmail Singh, forwards Satbir Singh and Yuvraj Walmiki. For obvious reasons, Gurbaj Singh was not included in the squad as his ban has only recently been lifted by Hockey India (HI) in October following a court order.
Gurbaj was banned in August by HI for nine months for alleged indiscipline.
Meanwhile, apart from Mujtaba, Lalit Upadhyay and Talwinder Singh have been included in the squad to strengthen the forward line.
“Nikkin suffered a shoulder injury during India’s tour of New Zealand in October. He has been advised six weeks of rest by the doctors,” HI selection committee member Harbinder Singh told IANS.
“S.V. Sunil had already returned to the squad for the New Zealand tour along with Kothajit Singh, who was earlier dropped. We have to try out and give everyone equal opportunities to get the best team possible.”
Currently, the squad is participating at an ongoing national camp at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre here.
“The team has been together in the camp for quite a while and they are showing tremendous progress. The Test series with Australia will help us evaluate our strengths and weaknesses before going into the HWL Final,” chief coach Roelant Oltmans said.
“We are excited and there is high degree of positivity within the boys and that gives all of us a lot of confidence. We are confident of playing some competitive hockey and hope to produce the best result in the league.”
Australia will first tour India to acclimatise themselves to the conditions before the HWL Final. They will play three Test matches on November 19, 22 and 23 with the first one in Rajnandgaon and the latter two in Raipur, the host city for HWL Final.
The HWL Final will then be held from November 27 to December 6 at the Raipur International Stadium and will feature the top eight teams of the year.
India have been grouped with reigning Olympic champions Germany, the Netherlands and Argentina in Pool B while current World Champions Australia, Belgium, Britain and Canada are in Pool A.
The Indian squad:
Goalkeepers: P.R. Sreejesh (vice-captain), Harjot Singh
Defenders: Birendra Lakra, Kothajit Singh, V.R. Raghunath, Jasjit Singh Kular, Rupinder Pal Singh
Midfielders: Sardar Singh (Captain), Chinglensana Singh Kangujam, Devinder Walmiki, Manpreet Singh, Dharamvir Singh, Danish Mujtaba
Forwards: S.V. Sunil, Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Talwinder Singh (IANS)