Fresh legs in focus

Sports

Nobbs added that the veterans needed to get a break. "Sardar and Raghunath have been playing non-stop over the past eight months. Their legs are covered with bruises. They really deserved time off."

And while the tournament may prove to be a tough initiation for the newer members of the squad, Nobbs asserted that it was a necessary part of the learning curve for the youngsters.

"Eighteen-year-old Mandeep Singh had an excellent HIL but he has realised that the international stage is a completely different level. We have another forward Akashdeep, who had a difficult start to international hockey, but has improved and performed at the Hockey World League.

"There are also a number of juniors in the side as well and the tournament will also be good preparation for them ahead of the Junior World Cup," he said.

The senior team will be back to playing its full strength at the Round 3 of the World Hockey League in mid-June featuring the top eight teams in the world and another eight teams advancing from round 2. Nobbs though feels that his side will be able to hold their own. "I think we are at that level. We reached the semifinal stage of the Champions Trophy after nearly 30 years. We have an excellent core group of players."

Flip flop on Azlan Shah participation

A stand-off between Hockey India (HI) and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) over who will pay for the air tickets of the men's hockey team resulted in the squad first being pulled out of the Azlan Shah tournament only for the decision to be reversed an hour later.

Hockey India issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon stating that they were 'forced to withdraw' from the tournament , which begins in Ipoh (Malaysia) on March 9 after SAI refused to grant airfare.

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