Hockey World Cup 2018: Rupinder Pal Singh's absence may hurt India at showpiece event, says ex-captain Sardar Singh

Bhubaneshwar: When Indian team for the upcoming Hockey World Cup was announced, among the notable absentees was Rupinder Pal Singh. The strapping defender — who has been in and out of the team over the past year — last played for Indian in the Asian Games in Jakarta where his indifferent form resulted in him getting the axe for the Asian Champions Trophy.

However, despite his iffy run of late, not many believed that the 28-year-old would be ignored for an event of such magnitude, especially considering the experience and options he comes with.

Sardar Singh, the recently-retired captain and another casualty of India's botched Asian Games bid, thinks Rupinder's exclusion was avoidable and the team might miss his experience in high-pressure matches.

"Experience is the key in such tournaments. A player of Rupinder Pal Singh's calibre deserved a chance, because ultimately, it all boils downs to pressure. And with his experience, Rupinder could have been a real asset," Sardar told Firstpost.

"Skillwise also, Rupinder offers a lot. He can initiate a quick turnover and can foil counter-attacks. He would have been a real asset."

Besides his defensive duties, Rupinder has been a trusted drag-flicker for a while, and with 116 goals from 206 matches, his scoring credentials are quite impressive. In his absence, Harmanpreet Singh will shoulder the bulk of short-corner duties. The 22-year old Punjab player was India's top-scorer at the Asian Champions Trophy with six goals, and has 51 international goals from 88 outings. Varun Kumar and Amit Rohidas complete India's drag-flick resources.

"Absolutely, Rupinder does provide an excellent drag-flick option, as he has both power and precision. Harmanpreet, Varun, and Amit are all young, and I am sure they will meet the challenge.

"The team is quite young, and not many players have big match experience. Unfortunately, SV Sunil and Ramandeep Singh are also not there due to injuries. Some of the current guys have played not more than 15-20 international matches, so yes, that is a concern. But having said that, I am sure they would have planned and strategised against each team. The coach and senior players will have a big role, and I am confident they will do well," the former playmaker said.

India's defence will be manned by Harmanpreet, Birendra Lakra, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh Khadangbam, Surender Kumar, and Amit Rohidas. Sardar expressed satisfaction with the return of Lakra — he had missed the Asian Champions Trophy due to injury — and feels the Odisha player will have a big role to play in the backline.

"I am very happy with the return of Birendra Lakra. He is a hardworking defender and he will have a lot of responsibility to shoulder," he said.

Hosts India will open their campaign on 28 November against South Africa.

Updated Date: Nov 26, 2018 18:56:40 IST