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Posted at: Jun 27, 2016, 2:35 AM; last updated: Jun 27, 2016, 2:35 AM (IST)

Punjab hockey on the move, three more boys set to make India debut

Punjab hockey on the move, three more boys set to make India debut
Varun Kumar

Indervir Grewal

Tribune News service

Chandigarh, June 26

The announcement of the junior men’s Indian team on Saturday has again underlined Punjab’s dominance in Indian hockey. Out of the 18-member team selected for the EurAsia Cup and England tour in July, nine players are from Punjab. Apart from them, Manpreet and Santa Singh, who is a product of the Namdhari academy, are from Haryana.

More importantly, though, the inclusion of three new names shows that the graph of hockey in Punjab is moving in the right direction.

Out of the nine Punjab players, six are regulars in the Indian team — Varun Kumar, Vikramjit Singh, Gurinder Singh, Gurjant Singh, Parvinder Singh and Simranjeet Singh. Gurinder is making a comeback after an injury layout that forced him to miss last year’s Sultan of Johor Cup and Junior Asia Cup. 

The inclusion of Hardik Singh, Shamsher Singh and goalkeeper Kishan Pathak, who will be making their India debuts, is encouraging.

“These three are younger than the others and from a later batch. Hardik and Shamsher were included in the national camp only late last year. To get into the team in such a short time is a big achievement,” said Avtar Singh, a coach at Surjit Academy, Jalandhar. 

All except Gurjant are either current or former trainees of the Surjit Academy. Hardik and Shamsher were included after the national camp was hit by a shortage of players — more than 10 boys were excluded from the camp because they were found overage.

“Our aim is to try and produce India players from every batch. These three players getting debuts at such an early stage is a good sign; Punjab hockey is moving forward,” added Avtar.

“This is a great opportunity for these three players; they will get incomparable exposure.”

Varun named vice-captain

It will also be a new experience for defender Varun, who has been named the vice-captain. In the absence of captain Harjeet Singh, vice-captain Dipsan Tirkey has been promoted to captain, while Varun has been given the additional responsibility. 

“I feel flattered by this opportunity. In hockey every player has to share responsibilities, so there is no extra pressure on me. But the title makes me want to take my role as a senior player more seriously,” said Varun. 

“Many seniors are being rested and new players are being given exposure. My main role will be to handle the inexperienced players,” he added. “I am happy for the three debutants from Punjab. They worked hard and excelled during the camp.”

India will travel to Yekaterinburg, Russia, for the EurAsia Cup in early July. They will return before leaving for England. The exposure trips have been scheduled keeping in mind the World Cup, to be held in Lucknow in December. 

Meanwhile, the senior team selected for the six-nation tournament in Spain includes seven players from Punjab — Rupinderpal Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Manpreet Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Talwinder Singh and juniors Harjeet and Harmanpreet Singh. Sardar Singh is from Haryana. Mandeep Singh, who was a part of the team in Champions Trophy, has been rested. 


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