Fresh legs in focus

Sports

The India men's hockey team didn't have the ideal start to their camp in New Delhi for the Azlan Shah tournament scheduled to be held in Malaysia from March 9. The first day saw just three players in Sandeep Singh, MB Aiyappa and Imran Khan in attendance because the bus carrying the players had a puncture on the way to the National Stadium.

Coach Michael Nobbs focussed his attention on drag-flicker Sandeep, one of the reserves who will be travelling to Ipoh. But the objective of the session was to figure out how the new speed gun worked rather than whether or not Sandeep was on the road to re-inventing himself.

In 2009, Sandeep was part of the India squad that won the Azlan Shah title after 13 years but he has fallen down the pecking order since. Though he top-scored in the Hockey India League, coach Nobbs had said that Sandeep can find a regular spot in the side only if he 'reinvents himself'.

In Ipoh, the drag-flicking duties will be assigned largely to Rupinderpal Singh and Gurjinder Singh in a team that will be without some of the more established names, namely Sardar Singh and VR Raghunath, both of whom have been rested following a hectic schedule that included Hockey India League and World League assignments.

While not underselling the squad, Nobbs said that the six-nation tournament in which the Indians won bronze last time around would be a difficult assignment. "I have no illusions about Azlan Shah which will be one of the toughest tournaments for us. We are going with a developmental squad. In fact we have more juniors than seniors. But it's necessary. We want these guys to get used to the idea of playing the senior team style. Whenever they make the main squad they should be able to adapt right away. " he said.

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