HI says hello to the future

Hockey India's decision to drop seven players who were part of the squad that finished last in London 2012 seems predictable, but not ordinary. The replacements for Shivendra Singh, Tushar Khandker and Ignace Tirkey are supremely talented players - Akashdeep Singh, Nitin Thimmiah and Yuvraj Walmiki - all younger and fitter, lacking only in experience.

One saw it coming at the nationals last month. In the final, Punjab's Akashdeep, 18, was decidedly a better player than Air India's Shivendra. aybe he was jaded after London but at 29, Shivendra isn't getting younger - by Rio 2016, he'll be 33.

Youthful Punjab won the nationals, but the team that impressed no less was Karnataka, led by VR Raghunath, 24, and spearheaded by 23-year-old Nithin Thimmiah. At the Olympics, India's players were outmuscled by rival teams, but in Thimmiah, India have a 6'3'' 200-pound striker who will be difficult to bully. And although built like a quarterback, the most striking thing about him isn't his physique but his hockey. A team full of such talented players, and built around the inspirational Sardar Singh, is an experiment worth taking.

There are some omissions. Punjab captain Sarvanjit Singh, one of the standout players at the nationals, was ignored apparently, on disciplinary grounds. Top drag-flicker Sandeep Singh was dropped, for he wasn't deemed a good enough defender. But Gurjinder Singh, 18, a gifted penalty corner specialist and a top-notch full back, wasn't considered either, because of his involvement in the WSH. This makes the start less-than-perfect, but nonetheless bright.

Daksh is a principal correspondent based in Delhi. daksh.panwar@expressindia.com

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